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Do Majority Governments Really Provide Better Governance Than Coalition Governments?

Nireekshan writes, one of the most important fallouts of a majority authorities is its over dependence on one leader, with choices often centralised, rather than being made via consensus.

  • It is obviously important to know what a ‘Coalition Government’ is, before we start understanding the above topic. Coalition Government(s):

In simple terms, it is a government containing members of two or more political parties, usually because no party has an absolute majority.

A self-serving myth, fostered by the Congress party, grew subsequently that coalitions make governance harder. So we have applauded whenever a single party is voted to power. Conversely, we have become despondent when coalitions have to be formed.

But the truth is the very opposite. To better understand the scenario we can compare the performances of governments between 1984 and 2019 with only 1984-89 and 2014-19 being majority governments, under PMs Rajiv Gandhi and Narendra Modi respectively.

One of the most important fallouts of a majority authorities is its over dependence on one leader, with choices often centralised, rather than being made via consensus. Conventional expertise tells us many minds are better than one, especially where big and complicated selections are concerned. But the tendency to listen to desirable recommend is regularly lost upon leaders with strong majorities. The unwell-recommended decision to reverse the Shah Bano judgment via the Rajiv Gandhi authorities and Modi’s disastrous demonetisation selection are flagbearers of this argument. Having the numbers in Parliament ought to result in unnecessary muscular posturing, which appears to be the case in India.

Hasty foreign policy decisions by Rajiv Gandhi in his outreach to the Sri Lankan Tamils led to his assassination. The majority government under Modi led to trampling of various independent institutions.  For the first time in independent India’s history, four judges of the Supreme Court collegium addressed the media because they believed that the roster allocation of cases to judges was being done arbitrarily to assist the government.

India got its strong leader, but instead of reforms, it got policies that were supported by few, with little or no debate, that harmed most Indians. The most obvious of these was demonetization, but the list also includes a host of other policies, including the botched GST classification system, the Aadhar overreach by circumventing the Rajya Sabha and budgets full of loan waivers and freebies. Part of the problem is Narendra Modi’s personality. He operates as a lone wolf, powering ahead without building allies or consulting coalition partners, or his party members. But the other problem is institutional. The Indian parliamentary system has not done well in checking the power of the Prime Minister.

Are coalitions better ?

Thus the narrative that majority and stability leads to good governance is more myth than reality. Coalitions that ruled India for 25 years after the 1989 general election, although generally regarded to be terrible, have had produced great results. Coalitions force consensus building, thus embodying the true spirit of democracy. They also ensure in creating a lower tyranny government and making it responsible by holding them accountable.


Why India needs a coalition government

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