In general, the term ‘coalition’ means temporary combination of groups or individual formed to attain specific objectives through joint action. Coalition in politics means temporary combination or alliance between or among political parties for attainment of special and common political objective. The term ‘coalition’ is mostly used in connection with the political party. In most coalition of political parties, the sole political purpose to come together is to either capturing power from form the government or to be formed combined strong and unified opposition against the government.
Coalition governments are frequently found in multi-party countries like India, France and Italy et cetera formed when no one political party is strong enough to obtain an electoral majority on its own. Coalition governments are not a new phenomenon in India. India has witnessed functioning of coalition government since 1957. The Communist pollution in government in West Bengal has lasted for more than 25 years.
At the national level the first ever coalition government was formed under the Prime Minister ship of late Shri Moraji Desai which existed from 24 March 1977 to 15 July 1979 led by Janata party. Since 1996 Indian politics have been continuously dominated by the coalition governments which by far have become stable after being unstable in the beginning.
Merits of Coalition Government
- Coalition government is more democratic and participative in decision-making because it represents a much broader and diverse range of public opinion then government by one party alone.
- The concept of coalition government originated in India because of diverse regional disparity and the failure of national parties to meet and represent the aspirations and the needs of all the states. The coalition government effectively attains the regional disparity better than the one-party rule. It is always advocated for the balance to both of all regions that the selective growth of only few regions to whom ruling party politically favors.
- Coalition Government provide good governance because their decisions are made after consultation and consensus among all political partners. Because of this, any policy will be debated thoroughly within the government before it is implicated single party government is more likely to impose thought out decisions upon the people, for example, the imposition of emergency rule by Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
- Coalition Government create a more honest and dynamic political system, allowing voters a clear choice at the time of election. In countries with coalition governments, the more number of political parties gave the voter a more honest and wide choice by bringing differences of opinion out into the open for debate.
- Coalition government provides more continuity in administration. In countries with tradition of coalition governments, parties replace each other in power very often as a result a more consensual style of politics by coalition partners allows not only continuation but also for a gradual and constructive shift of policy between administrations.
- It functions on the democratic principle of politics of consensus. Besides, due to presence of regional parties in the coalition government, state and their demands are given due consideration in the decision making, and thereby the base of federalism is strengthened.
- In coalition since government is more consensus-based there for its policies and decisions are broadly approve of for the benefit of the nation.
- Better representation of the electorates, enhanced scrutiny and increased attention paid to each policy decision, effective enhancing democratic legitimacy, representativeness, and national unity, for ensuring success of otherwise controversial decisions such as introduction of neo liberal economic reforms, federal decentralization, coalition governance is proved to be a viable alternative.
Demerits of Coalition governments
- Coalition Government is less transparent in governance. Since a party has no real chance of forming a government alone, the manifestoes and promises they present to the people become conflicting and often impracticable. Real decisions about political programs are made after the elections but in this process of secret negotiation, people are completely excluded.
- It is argued that the coalition government is actually less democratic in its functioning as key to the power holding is inevitably controlled by the small parties working for their support with the main group within the coalition. This means that a party with little popular support able to impose its policies upon the majority by process of political blackmail.
- Coalition governments are often criticized in the account of its unstable tenure, often collapsing at frequent intervals. In India, all non-Congress coalitions at center except Vajpayee led NDA coalition didn’t complete its full term. This greatly restricts the ability of governments to deal with major reforms.
- Coalition is considered to be a bad government in terms of decision-making because they are unable to take a long-term view. Sometimes, an ideological homogeneity is necessary for government to take decisions at the time of crisis and coalitions lack such unifying philosophy.
- Coalition governments are definitely far less effective, not durable and not dependable as compare to the government form by single party with strong leadership, definite ideology and principles. In coalition, influential leaders are appointed as ministers on the recommendations of the parent party, without taking into account the qualification, character and criminal record of the MPs.
- While accommodating leaders from all parties in the coalition government the size of ministry tends to become huge. Reckless spending on maintaining huge ministry is a blatant misuse and waste of revenues of the nation.
Coalition governments have served a full term with Manmohan Singh’s UPA being the last one to have completed two terms in office – but there have been other coalition governments which proved to be unstable and couldn’t last their full term. The critics are divided over stability and performance of a coalition government. They generate more inclusive policies because a coalition represents wider group of political parties. Coalition governments don’t harm the economic performance in India or any other country.
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