Unite and Rule: Tale of political alliances and coalition governments

Published at December 05, 2018 01:14 AM 0Comment(s)2665views

Nasir Ahmad


Unite and Rule: Tale of political alliances and coalition governments

In today’s political setup, terms like coalition and alliance have become imperative as much as politics itself, more so ahead of, during and after the elections. The two terms seem to have the same general meaning and in broader sense can be construed as coming together of two otherwise divergent ideological partners or parties to pursue a common interest or benefit. The use of both terms may go beyond the political perspective, say military, financial, commercial, technological, and so on. However coalition is used most often in the political context for a temporary alliance of political parties forming a government in states or even at the centre. In a coalition or alliance, the parties unite temporarily for mutual benefit on the basis of similarity of political aims and interests.

Thus parties of varied political ideologies make it convenient to make an alliance for a common purpose of forming and running a government called a coalition government with a commitment to achieve common goals while making the common ideas and thoughts as the basis of working together. Alliance is an agreement between two or more political parties that exists solely to stand in elections and form government in case of achieving winning numbers. Each of the parties within the alliance has its own policies but chooses temporarily to put aside differences in favour of common goals and ideology. A broader vision of efficient governance and people based policies has a potential to keep the two parties bound together and succeed.

In India the concept of alliance or the coalition emerged post emergency era in 1977. Having governed the country the entire period of post independence, the Congress party had turned the party rule into family rule. However, things turned around for Congress after Indira Gandhi declared emergency in 1975. The party’s decline reflected during the general elections in 1977. Congress was wiped off as a ruling party and for the first time after independence an amalgam of non-Congress parties, the Jananta Party got mandate to from the government in New Delhi which marked the beginning of alliance of political parties and the coalition governments. Subsequently we saw emergence of alliances like UPA and the NDA taking reins of power in New Delhi leaving behind the era of single party rule. In today’s scenario even if the central government has dominance of the BJP, it is principally a coalition government having several parties in alliance.

Whereas the concept of alliances and the coalitions for effective governance became an efficient option, although a compulsion, in the situations of fractured mandates, and worked reasonably well for the Centre and some more states, it did not go well in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The state got its first coalition government of a newly emerged political party, the PDP and the Congress party in year 2002 after National Conference failed to make it to the treasury benches after tasting an unexpected backlash in the elections. The coalition government came into existence after the two parties formed an alliance with great fanfare and promises.  However the glamour soon started to fade as the parties started pulling the rope towards their own ends.

Sour relations soon started to be appearing as the parties continued to wash the dirty linen in the public domain. Be it distribution of ministries, the appointment of bureaucrats, the issue of balanced regional development – nothing went right. In fact the already fragile state started to show a steep decline towards an ugly state of instability, which has been progressing since then. Thus, whereas the concept of coalition governments elsewhere did prove beneficial in perusing people friendly governance, it proved counterproductive in Jammu and Kashmir. When the individual party interests, personal agendas and the regional preferences takes the front row, efficient governance is bound to disappear from the priorities. However the greed of sticking to power kept the coalition together with rotational change of ministries as well as of the chief minister post .The alliance of the PDP and the Congress disappeared on a very bitter note when the Amarnath land row hit the state and flames of regionalism engulfed the entire state. The alliances and with it the government ended, but not before the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir was plunged into the bog of regional hatred and communal divide, from which the state has not recovered yet. In fact the state is neck deep in it now following the repetitions of more so-called unholy alliances and coalitions.

 The principle of coalition would demand that each of the parties within the alliance though not shunning their own policies choose temporarily to put aside differences in favour of an efficient governance and healthy political atmosphere. In fact in today’s political scenario, situations do demand that an electoral alliance is manufactured by parties with very different policy goals, but agree to pool resources in order to stop a particular candidate or party from gaining power. However the idea only meets a long term success when the alliance parties stick to their commitment of delivering of efficient governance and balanced development. How can the coalition meet success when the partners in government start fighting on the very issues on which they campaigned together or agreed upon to pursue them together from the same coalition platform?

Born in 2008, the coalition of NC and Congress did live its full term, the relations were far from healthy and peaceful. All along the period of the coalition rule, the parties continued in mudslinging, and the government continued not for the benefit of the people but for pursuing personal benefits and political goals. In the meantime the seeds of instability and the regional drift took firm roots in the state. The alliances did survive the full term of the assembly, but failed to provide much needed political stability to the state or peace to the valley. The 2010 turmoil was one of the manifestations of the failed alliance.

In 2014, the coalition government formed between PDP and the BJP was beginning of the end of the political constancy and regional harmony in the state. An alliance was announced after weeks of parleys and discussions for the coalition to agree upon and publish a common developmental and economic programme.  However the marriage turned sour right on the day of swearing ceremony when the BJP showed open displeasure over a particular statement of the CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.  The alliance faced rough weather with political and personal clashes between the two parties right from day first of the coalition. The ugliness of the alliance started resulting in the continuous drift of the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir and even a sharp divide started becoming visible on the basis of the religions.  Acute arrogance of the BJP and the mute surrender of the PDP ultimately paved the way for a nauseating political disaster particular for the valley.

Even after the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, when PDP got a chance of revisiting the alliance, they decided to continue with it, probably after getting fresh assurances from BJP. However the association again started to fall off and as there was no visible harmony visible between the two parties. While as PDP tried its best to push a balanced developmental and political agenda, the BJP ensured to project valley as a hateful commodity and Jammu a victim and a darling.  After the coalition fell in 2018, the communal polarisation and the regional divide was almost complete as the state fell under the direct control of BJP through Governor Rule. 

Today the regional divide between Jammu and Kashmir is at all time high, and the communal divide and the hatred are more than visible. It is unlikely that any single party can emerge in the coming elections to govern the state. The alliances and the coalitions have more than once proved their failure. The state is thus set to witness another spell of chaos, confusion and uncertainty once the elections are announced and conducted. The state owes the current mess to the political parties who preferred to pursue their individual agendas to a common developmental and governance programmes thus turning the purposeful alliances into unholy marriages. With regional drift and the communal passions at their peak, coming elections will prove to be challenge for all those who celebrate the situation as well as those who regret it. Political alliance and coalition governments will be the only option available. Let there be a healthy and people-friendly pacts instead of lousy and selfish deals.

ahmed3s.nasir@gmail.com

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