Have Coalition Governments Come to Stay?

713 Views Updated: 06 Jul 2018
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Have Coalition Governments Come to Stay?

Experimentations with multi-party or coalition government started in India way back in 1967 in the state of West Bengal with the breakaway faction of Indian National Congress (INC), Bangla Congress led by Ajay Mukherjee joining hands with Communist parties to form the state government, which was short-lived.

Later in 1977 when the INC lost in the Lok Sabha elections after ruling the country for 30 years to the Janata Party, an alliance of all anti-Congress parties, mostly due to the wrath and disgruntle of the voters for the emergency and other alleged anti-people policies, we say the first ever coalition government at the center.

However, right from the very first day, the ministry was sworn-in under the leadership of Morarji Desai, a veteran in Indian politics; it was on the wrong trajectory.

Desai was having an ego problem with the highly ambitious Charan Singh, Jagjeevan Ram, and other stalwarts and nobody was surprised when the government lost a majority in the lower house in 1979 after numerous resignations and withdrawal of support from the erstwhile JanSangh and other coalition partners.

Subsequently, another coalition ministry led by Charan Singh assumed office with outside support from the Congress.

However, its lifespan was even shorter and Singh tendered his resignation even before seeking a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha and recommended the then President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy to dissolve the Parliament and call for fresh elections.

In 1980, the Congress led by Indira Gandhi was back to power after a gap of about two and a half years as the voters were disillusioned with the coalition politics and India was back to single party government.

Resurgence of coalition policies at the center was seen again in 1989 when the third coalition government was formed after the Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government lost the elections mostly due to the hype created by the media on charges of corruption and graft leveled against Rajiv related to the Switzerland-based Bofors ammunition company by his former cabinet colleague V.P Singh.

The National Front or Jan Morcha ministry headed by Singh was a coalition of the Janata Party, Telegu Desam, DMK, Akali Dal and AGP, with outside support from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties.

However, barely after 11 months following the government decision to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission report, granting 27% reservations for Other Backward Classes and the arrest of Lal Krishna Advani during his Rath Yatra led to the withdrawal of support of the BJP and the dissident faction of the Janata Party led by Chandrasekhar defected sides, resulting in the resignation of the government.

Chandrasekhar became the new prime minister with outside support from the Congress to the new government.

The duration of this ministry was even shorter when in 1991 the Congress withdrew support following alleged charged of deployment of cops in front of Rajiv Gandhi’s residence by the government, repeating its history of 1979.

The Congress emerged as the largest party in the elections and assumed power capitalizing on the tragic and untimely death of Rajiv on May 21 while campaigning in Tamil Nadu.

The single party government led by P V Narasimha Rao survived for five years despite being a minority one banking on its manipulative and maneuvering skills.

India witnessed another situation of a hung Parliament in 1996 after the parliamentary elections and BJP, the single largest party in the Lok Sabha formed a minority government head by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which on par with expectations lasted for 13 days only after Vajpayee failed to prove his majority.

This led to the formation of two back-to-back coalition National Front government's first led by H.D Devegowda and then by I.K Gujral.

Both the governments were extended outside support from the Congress and the subsequent withdrawal led to another untimely poll in 1998.

Vajpayee was again sworn in as the prime minister of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government that lasted for 13 months before fresh elections were held in 1999.

The second NDA government managed to survive for five years before being wiped out of power in 2004 because of the huge anti-incumbency wave across the nation.

Manmohan Singh, the “Yes Man” of Congress Supremo Sonia Gandhi was sworn in as the prime minister of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), another coalition government, headed by the Congress for the first time. But Manmohan Singh-led UPA government survived for ten years.

India received yet another coalition government at the center in 2014 with the BJP-led NDA headed by Narendra Modi back to power.

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