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Coalition Complications


Coalition governments by their very nature are difficult to manage, particularly in India. Traditionally, a very high price has had to be paid by the dominant party to maintain the loyalty of its partners. This is particularly so when the only reason for coming together is capturing power, irrespective of ideological and other differences. The more ‘successful’ the coalition, the greater the compromises that have to be made. The best example of this is the UPA era of Manmohan Singh, under which corruption rose to epic proportions – the price paid for ‘unity’.
The problem becomes even more complicated when the top job of Prime Minister or Chief Minister goes to one of the smaller partners in the coalition. The contradictions of this are being played out in Karnataka these days, where Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy is spending all of his time placating the Congress, instead of delivering on the governance he promised. It is only natural when the only thing in common between the coalition partners is keeping the BJP out and enjoying the fruits of power. The legislators of the Congress want their pound of flesh and it is clearly not forthcoming. After all, when votes are being cast on the basis of caste and community, the particular interests of those sections have to be furthered. If they are not, the MLAs and the parties they belong to have a difficult time explaining the reasons to their respective votebanks.
Quite obviously, it has a lot to do with the art of leadership. How and why would various political factions – even within a party – come together for what is deemed the larger cause? The leader or collective leadership has to be able to convince everybody that benefits will eventually accrue to everybody from the policies being pursued. Unfortunately, this becomes difficult when the benefits sought are the fruits of corrupt practices, or partisan behaviour. In a democracy, there is a point beyond which corruption cannot be accommodated, but short-sighted politicians who are in the game for self-advancement are incapable of understanding this.
Have Indians learned from coalition fiascos of the past? Are they aware of the costs that have to be paid by voting for leaders who lack the ability to cooperate or govern? One may get momentary satisfaction from scoring against some rival caste or community, but nobody actually benefits except the conniving politician who takes advantage of people’s prejudices and lack of awareness. The nation will soon enter another critical phase of politics and the voters need to learn lessons from the past to forge a better future.