The term coalition is derived from Latin word coalition
means to go
together or to grow together. This means an act of political party that unite
some parties to form temporary union or alliance for combined action to capture
Coalition government is formed with political alliance of two or more than two
political parties with an agreement among allied parties. The alliance and
support to prove required majority may be with or without sharing the power. We
have so many such cases in the central and state governments. Coalition
government is formed when not even a single party gains clear majority in the
general elections to either Central or State Governments. Then inevitably two or
more than two minority parties will join hands and form government
Coalition may be with or without sharing power, some times it may be pre poll
coalition and some other time it may be post poll alliance to prove majority.
The objective here is to form government and to avoid immediate re- elections.
A single government is formed by different parties for the joint use of
resources and fulfilment of their party’s manifesto through the single
government. Parties forget their political ideologies to form coalition.
Elections are the festivals of Parliamentary Democratic system. Parliamentary
Democracy is the gradual evolution against absolute Monarchical system in
England. The Stuart rulers were the absolute monarchs who denied the liberty and
rights of the people. The parliament was not having any powers. The bloodless
revolution resulted in strengthening the parliament in England and that is the
birth of parliamentary system.
Democracy is the government wherein the sovereign power is vested in people.
This Government as Abraham Lincoln says is “ Government of the people, by the
people and for the people.” India is the largest Parliamentary Democracy in the
world. The success and failure of this democracy is depending the on the
elections, political parties and political consciousness of the citizens. The
problem is of judging the quality of the political consciousness of the people.
In the Encyclopaedia of Social Science , Prof Ogg defines coalition as:
co-operative arrangements under which distinct political parties or at all
events members of such parties unite to form the government or ministry.
Coalition government is indispensable when there is no clear majority to any
single political party contested in general elections. After general elections
held to either central parliament or to any state assembly, if there is no clear
majority to a single political party then two or more than two political parties
join their hands to form government with or without conditions or power sharing.
Eventually the coalition government finds it difficult to maintain support with
the allies at times. This has happed frequently in most of the coalition
governments. When Vajapayeeji formed government at the centre had to lose
confidence within 14 days. No matter how prompt or dedicated the party or person
is for public welfare. Karnataka is the best example of failure of coalition for
many a times.
Congress was a platform for freedom fighters to organise the activities at the
time of National Movement and that helped a lot to bring people from different
parts of the country together and to fign collectively. Later on, it turned as a
political party in Indian politics. Partition of Hindustan in to India and
Pakisthan , Muslim League abstained itself from Indian politics. Then onwards
only Congress Party is the single largest political party. Hence general
elections since 1951-52 to 1967 to both centre and state assemblies got clear
majority as people had no other choice to vote. In the year 1967 the fourth
general elections resulted in hung assemblies in some states.
Parliament experienced coalition government for the first time in the year 1977
to 79 when Janatha Party formed coalition government by joining hands with other
political parties. Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister, the government last its
existence in the mid of 1979. Later on Charan Sing took over the charge as the
care taker government. In the year 1990 National Front Government by congress
alliance came in to existence and V.P. Singh as the Prime Minister. Then onwards
we see -BJP led coalition under the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee
completed its 5 years term.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) consisting of separate 13 parties enjoyed
the power for two terms from 2004 to 2014. National Democratic Alliance in 2014
came to power with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and completed its term 2014
to 2019. We all have witnessed the 2019 elections in which Bharathiya Janatha
Party (BJP) emerged as single largest majority party. The period from 1967 to
2014 the nation has seen coalitions at the centre which were stable almost
except minor irking incidents.
Till 2014 Congress had to struggle to form government at the centre whereas in
the 2014 elections again National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed government
with the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi. Analysing all this data of
elections since 1967 Congress as largest party has lost its importance due to
In most of the states when single dominant Congress could not win elections due
to the above reasos and also the emergence of regional political parties. In
centre First coalition happened in the year 1977 where as for state assemblies
it started from 1967 itself. Being large Parliamentary Democracy of the world ,
India is limping since many years to upheld the principles of the same. The
idiom “ New Broom Sweeps Well “ best suits to India. If you look back post
independence era from 1951 - 52 first general elections till 1967 , India could
get clear majority governments and faced no difficulties of tenure completion.
In the later era from 1967 till 2014 central as well as many states are not
getting clear majority in the general elections. Coalition is indispensable
these days. But the emergence of new political parties both at national and
regional levels provided people choices. Result of it is hung parliament or
assembly. Many reasons can be mentioned for the coalition governments formations
in the Indian context.
Emergence of regional and national political parties, increased role of regional
political parties, Lack of Political awareness among, Influence of Religion and
caste in politics, personal rivalry or grudge of the politicians, national
crisis, economic inflation, Indo China war and defeat, death of Nehru weakened
Congress party. Until 1967 Congress was the only dominant party to win clear
majority and form government both at centre and the states in India. But people
found other parties as choice for the congress. Vibrant political behaviour of
the then congress leader made congress to survive in the midst of anti-congress
Karnataka is the best example for short lived coalitions. The politics of MAGIC
NUMBER and the BLAME GAME we find the vital highlights of Karnataka coalition
politics. Maharashtra, Haryana also have had coalition. In 2019 elections for
Maharashtra clear mandate was not given to any single party.
Hence National Congress, Congress and Shiv Serna formed government after a month
long drama of power sharing politics. If you look at Karnataka’s politics
unfortunately people are not able to get stable and efficient government. The
alliances are almost made among Janatha Dal (S) ( JDS ) and Bharathiya Janatha
Party or between Janatha Dal (S) and Congress.
These are short lived coalitions due to breach of agreement between two
political parties. Janardhan Reddy, BJP leader in the year 2008 tried to secure
support of other party MLAs bypassing “Anti- Defection Law” and that act was
coined as Operation Kamala
. It is a kind of trading or purchasing the
members of Legislative Assembly to get support to meet the magic number.
Coalition changed its alliance twice even while Congress JDS formed the
government with an agreement of 50 – 50 power sharing. JDS did not keep words
and withdrew support and obviously government dissolved.
Later JDS made an alliance with BJP again with same terms of power sharing 50
-50. But once again JDS came out of the alliance after enjoying the power. The
premature elections held to Karnataka. The point here is coalition sustenance
depends on the moral binding on the parties within the alliance.
After 2006 elections JDS had to face toughest time when it made an alliance with
congress and two independent candidates recently. BJP did not get clear mandate.
Immediately after the general elections Congress declared unconditional support
to JDS and agreed to make Kumara Swamy, chief of JDS to be the Chief Minister.
But the power thirsty among many congress MLAs and independent members led to
the dissolution of the coalition in 2019. 17 MLAs from coalition resigned and
created legal issues. The by- elections now held will decide the fait of BJP to
form full pledged government.
Advantages of Coalition Governments
When there is no clear majority to form the government for any political party,
then the government is to be dissolved and fresh elections to be held. But if
coalition is accepted by the political parties then it saves time, public money.
Coalition prevents the dictatorial nature of single party government. Consent of
the allied parties is necessary for any policy decisions of the government.
Then biased administration will be definitely avoided. It provides
representation for all partner parties and that might include all sections of
the people. Eventually it results in good administration. Single party dominance
will be curtailed with the forming of coalition government. During national
crisis and the difficulties coalition is the best option so that serious
problems like war, economic crisis can be tackled. When you look at the
coalition formed at the centre from 1977 till 2014 is the evidence of completing
This helps in saving public money. If no clear majority you need to go for fresh
elections which need to spend a lot of public money for arranging, conducting
elections and declaring results after counting need deploying security and
government personnel, logistics arrangements, training, and smooth conducting of
elections. After that safely protecting the ballet boxes , counting and
declaring the results. The whole process needs not just money but the valuable
time investment as well. That will definitely paralyze the
administration. Elections are the means and not the ends for Democracy.
Regional parties will get representation because of coalition. Single party
dominance will be curtailed when there are two or more than two parties to
question. When there is no reach of magic number opportunity for the regional
parties and independent candidates will be open. Combination of many parties in
the formation government is the representation of the real will of the people.
In a coalition government one can expect democracy alive with decision making,
Parties with different background will not allow single party to decide by
considering the minority will. After forming the government every allied party
tries to fulfil the manifesto of its own. Amalgamation of different manifestos
results in representation of the aspirations of different sections of people.
Nation experiences good administration without much political rivalry. The
parties tries to compromise with other party / parties for the sake of power.
In Indian case we find the central coalitions, except 14 days Vajapayee
government failure , have successfully completed the tenure of office. But in
case of states almost the states have suffered. Karnataka especially is the
victim of the system with which people are suffering with short lived government
and frequent elections. Good governance is a mirage for Karnataka.
The major drawback of coalition is its uncertainty. The allied parties may
withdraw support at any time when they find difference of opinion on any
political or administrative issues. Ideological difference is another cause of
failure of the coalition. In most cases in India coalition has been unsuccessful
due to many such reasons. If coalition fails to continue- no- confidence motion
is the choice for the government. If fails to prove majority in the house, the
government has to quit power.
Coalition becomes unethical when it is alliance between of diverse ideologies.
Compromise among the parties for power means the party is not living up to its
ideology. Diverse ideologies and amalgamation of the manifestos of different
parties will not help in smooth administration. Differences of opinion delays in
policy formation, decision making. One party’s right decision may not be right
for another party.
That leads to instability of the government. While sharing power also
differences arises. Actual well being of the people is not the concern for the
allied parties. Life of such coalition governments will be obviously short and
that will result in dissolution of the government. Appeasement policies will be
made instead of development policies. Here the government has to live at the
mercy of the allies.
Time-consuming decision-making process does not allow for good governance. If at
all the coalition is formed by regional parties the national interest will be
definitely ignored due to regional consideration. There two things may happen in
any coalition. One is the allied parties will compromise to that extent so that
they can get the benefit of retaining power, getting financial benefit,
The second one is – the allied parties will not support for governance and non-
cooperate with each other . This shortens the life of the coalition
government. The power sustainability is the main game in coalition government.
The major party in power obviously tries to please the other supporting parties
and play the game so that it can sustain ppower.
Karnataka is the best example of power sustainability politics and utter failure
with coalition government. Recently no single party emerged as majority party in
the October 2019 elections held for states of Maharashtra and Haryana. Parties
joined hands to form the government. It took almost a month to come to
conclusion to form coalition in Maharashtra. Political game played by the
parties is only for the greed of power but no where you find the concern for
the good governance.
Karnataka example proves the horse trade of the greedy MLAs. Anti - defection
law also could not do anything to prevent the people’s representative from
jumping from one to other political party. Every problem has a solution and also
the politicians make misuse of some loopholes of existing laws and get benefited
Since two tenures Karnataka has no stable government. With all the evidences of
happenings in the Karnataka politics it is clear that power is the ultimate
concern instead of public welfare. Parties considered to make use of opportunity
created by the hung assembly but the regional party took benefit of it by
playing with two national major political parties BJP and Congress.
Even after that 2018 elections also did not result in clear majority to any
single party. The farsightedness of politicians in Congress Party lead to
coalition with JDS and this happened even before the declaration of results from
all constituencies. Due to greed for power Congress senior politicians also
compromised with the situation and sacrificed power to JDS so that they could
join hands with Congress immediately so that largest but not clear majority
party should not form government by making alliance with independents and also
by attracting few from JDS or Congress . With this Congress and JDS remained
safe from the horse trade of their MLAs and also could grab power.
The game played by both these parties did not contribute anything for the good
governance. But the main problem raised when intolerance in both the parties
reached highest peak, could not survive.
The purpose of holding elections and electing the people’s representatives is to
form government which is for the sake of better life of people and not to
satisfy the greedy politicians. The real fact of birth state, government and
political parties- has been faded away. A political turmoil created by the
uncertainty and the blame game of the politicians made coalition as short lived
in Karnataka and most of the states in India. Karnataka is being cursed to have
only hung assembly and short lived coalitions.
Coalition cannot be clear mandate by the people. The minority party may take
undue advantage of the situation and may play the role of “king maker”. In such
cases the power sharing will be against the will of the people. In case of
Karnataka coalition formed between Congress and JDS with the help of two
independent candidates lived for very short period due to non- co-operation of
the supports from both major parties Congress and JDS.
From both these parties 15 and 2 independent candidates resigned tot eh
coalition government. The worst thing of the then politics was horse trade.
Karnataka is the champion of short- lived coalition and for the formation of
such government almost Congress, BJP and JDS involved in horse trade and “Resort
Politics”- and this is another heinous activity found to keep all their MLAs
safe from the other parties.
We are not finding the dedicated statesmen in today’s politics. Disgusting fact
is the purpose of gaining power has become a personal agenda and not for the
sake of state or nation. Till today Karnataka is facing the dilemma of
government formation forget about the government and the administration. We can
not expect good governance by the political parties in such situations because
they always have to worry about retaining the confidence of the allied parties
and independent candidates.
Such power sustenance politics is not healthy development for a state or nation.
If you take Maharashtra example it took nearly about a month to decide with whom
the hands are to be joined. We have to see the life of that coalition also
because NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena are having diverse ideologies. Compromise
for policy formation is expected to maximum extent which won’t be possible among
such coalitions. With observation of coalition in India we can say about 90% the
coalition at Centre were successful whereas at states it has been unsuccessful.
Elections are the base for Parliamentary Democracy. In addition to that India
has Multi - Party system. Obviously, the votes will be divided among different
parties. Indian politics is influenced by many factors like religion and caste.
Hence any kind of political awareness will not eliminate the deep rooted
casteism and communalism.
Coalitions are inevitable for India. Present BJP government at centre is full
pledged and is due to the election manifesto and the political strategies of the
party through which the party has become successful to convey the people that
they are doing good to the nation. If the same mind set is continued for more
time no doubt the centre will get full pledged government further for some more
But the states are almost suffering by the short- lived governments. Either two
party system or the presidential form of government will be the solution for to
avoid coalitions. For which constitutional amendment is required. If at all the
same parliamentary is to be continued then only way out is two party system.
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Award Winning Article Is Written By: Prof.Saroja Huggi
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