The fall of one-party dominant system or what famous political scientist Rajni Kothari termed as ‘Congress System’ in the 1970s led to an era of coalition politics. From the ‘Janta Government’ to ‘National Front’ government, the era of coalition government witnessed parties cutting across different ideologies coming together to form a government.
Even in states, stretching from Uttar Pradesh to Bihar to Maharashtra, all of it witnessed the formation of coalition governments. But, in most of these cases, the coalition governments failed to complete its full terms as it became evident that most of the parties that came to form the coalition government, came together to share the “spoils of power” rather than with an aim of providing a ‘stable government’.
Also, it was seen that the ‘senior partners’ in these coalition often took the parties with lesser numbers of legislators for granted and showed complete disregard for ‘coalition dharma’.
In this context it would not be an exaggeration to say that the only party that was able to honor its ‘coalition dharma’ was the party that could for the first time complete its term in a coalition government.
And that party was Bharatiya Janta Party under Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister.
In 2011, when the nation was witnessing problems like rising prices and massive corruption and Congress-led UPA that was in power and was not able to take decisive steps to check these problems, they blamed ‘coalition politics’ for it.
In February 2011 when asked at a press conference about the reappointment of A Raja as telecom minister in 2009 despite the allegations of corruption, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he had to accept the DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s choice since “compromises have to be made in the interests of coalition politics”.
It was the same Congress which in March 1991 had withdrawn support from Chandra Shekharover the allegation of ‘snooping’. Congress had alleged that on the orders of Chandra Shekharpolice was snooping on Rajiv Gandhi.
And, as chronicled in the political history of India, Congress time and again, because of petty reasons and personal ambitions showed complete disregard for its coalition partners.
After many twists and turns Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeraywas sworn in as Chief Minister of Maharashtra last month. Shiv Sena could form the government with the help of Sonia Gandhi-led Congress and Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party.
Following his oath, it was the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was among the first to congratulate Uddhav Thackeray. “Congratulations to Uddhav Thackeray Ji on taking oath as the CM of Maharashtra. I am confident he will work diligently for the bright future of Maharashtra”, PM Modi tweeted.
While PM Modi’s message was a reflection of mature democracy where ideological differences never stop a person to honor a constitutional office, it is upon Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena to understand that definition of ‘coalition dharma’ is very different for Bharatiya Janata Party and for Congress.
History is testimony to the fact that Congress has never cared about its coalition partners when it came to perusing its own self-interest. And, in this context the comment made by Union Home Minister during the debate on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill earlierthis week is of great importance.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah while rubbishing the Congress party’s claim that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is communal in nature made a ‘spot on’ remark that the Congress is such a secular party that it has Muslim League as a coalition partner in Kerala and the Shiv Sena as an ally in Maharashtra.
The fact that Congress partners with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and ties up with the Muslim League in Kerala is testimony to the fact that it has least regard for any ideology when it comes to forming a government or else how is it possible to support two parties placed at two farthest ends of the spectrum at one point in time.
It goes on to show that for Congress coalition has always been an instrument of power-sharing whereas for Bharatiya Janata Party it has always been a need for providing stable government.
Bharatiya Janata Party has always honored its coalition partners and never seen them as an instrument to reach ‘magic number’ to form a government. It is evident from the fact in spite of getting a majority on its own in 2014 Lok Sabha elections Bharatiya Janata Party honored its ‘coalition dharma’ and gave all its coalition partners their due place in the government.
Similarly, in 2019 even after getting the massive mandate; that shocked all political pundits, Bharatiya Janata Party included its ‘smaller partners’ like Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiv Sena in the Union Cabinet.
The true litmus of ‘coalition dharma’ is honoring the constituents of the coalition even when their presence is insignificant for the purpose of the stability of the government.
The most honest yardstick of ‘coalition dharma’ is to keep ‘national interest’ at the front and let any coalition crumble if it tends to compromise with it.
Touchstone of ‘coalition dharma’ is honoring constituents, providing stable government and keeping national interest at front and not just being guided by the lust of power.
And Bharatiya Janata Party has always done this and Shiv Sena shall learn this sooner or later.