Coalition Government and Democracy

Our political system is brimming over with coalition governments. They have sprung up like mushrooms in a majority of states, along with a government at the centre. The main cause behind this phenomenon, which has rocked the very foundation of Indian democracy, is the formation of regional parties, often at the whims and fancies of political leaders.

Democracy is a system of forming governments where the ultimate source of power is the people and they make use of their power through their representative who remains responsible to the people for the exercise of power. Although we have been endowed with a beautiful legacy of democratic history, our political scene is highly unstable and is in serious trouble due to the emergence of a string of coalition governments. With the emergence of multi-party system in India, the limelight is now on regional parties who have seized this opportunity and have made formation of government at every level a Herculean task.

The party system that has emerged in India is not only incompatible with the particular democratic institution that we have adopted, but also constitutes a clear danger to the survival of democracy in the country. Our constitutional experts need to scrutinise this situation and advocate clear guidelines using which we can iron out the flaws that crop up while forming political parties and such similar outfits. They also need to suggest what could be done for dealing with the situation likely to be emerge after parliamentary elections where no party can form the government.

At the root of it all is the fact that the public votes for regional parties often born on shoddy principles of caste, religion, language, region and gender. Disgruntled politicians manifest their own narrow principles to float political parties and win votes with populist strategies. The value of public opinion rests on the united show of aggregate views about causes and concerns which the community face as a whole. This is what these parties cash on.

Uneducated and ignorant as these people often are, their votes get swayed away due to regional bias and religious beliefs which make the end result a very distorted version of what the public opinion had to be or was projected to be. This leads to a very sorry state of affairs as public opinion is horrendously disintegrated and no one emerges out as a clear winner.

Though coalition governments may bank upon the advantages of representation from various quarters of the societal landscape, its disadvantages brings a much wider picture highlighting the core problems in our constitutional machinery. Every coalition government formed with the union of several parties is like a newborn with medical defects which hamper its growth at every level.

The biggest disadvantage of a coalition government is that the end product depicted is very unstable and vulnerable as the core element of the coalition has to keep up with all the promises made to its partners and do the impossible Рmake everyone happy with the platter offered to him or her. By doing so the government has to sacrifice on various key policies and important programs. A succession of undisciplined activities, horse-trading events and defection take place which lowers the public morality, all just to serve to each party’s narrow political interests.

The cabinet size grows out of proportion to accommodate every interest thus fuelling increased expenditure of valuable public funds for seemingly wasteful purposes. Finally the supreme position of the Prime Minister becomes shaky and he is tied down towards preserving and sustaining the coalition and duties towards the country, thus staying distinctly non-committal to the latter.

If one has to put my list of disadvantages to test, the result will prove to be true to what we are seeing in the present UPA coalition government. The left parties leave no stone unturned to veto the action of the government, thus making stumbling holes in the path of the government, acting as if they are the opposition and not an ally. Instances can be given of the issues pertaining to Disinvestment where the government had to ultimately bow down to pressure. I believe that in the case of Third World or developing countries, the concept of coalition governments may not prove to be successful.

The next question which arises is: what needs to be done to rectify the situation?
I have a few answers.

Firstly, the voting age should be increased to 21 from 18 as we need more intelligent and mature citizens to vote, as it is a serious and responsible task. I believe that a person who has reached the age of that of a graduate should vote rather than a high school pass out or a person of that corresponding age.

Political literacy drives sponsored by Election Commission to educate rural citizens about the basics of politics and voting rights should be started on a large scale to make them responsible and intelligent voters.

Campaign and candidacy done on cheap principles such as caste, religion, language, region and gender should be severely discouraged and checked. Finally, the procedure of formation of political parties and outfits should be amended making it as difficult as possible so that it is discouraged.

If we put our minds to it, we can pull our country out of this menace and have our country elect a responsible government .The power always resides in us. We, the people.

Sayan Das


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