My Report Debate: Our Democracy is a Coalition of Differences
(Kartikeya Jain’s essay is among the Top 10 of the My Report Debate. Participants were asked the question: Who do you think should lead India – a single party or a coalition?)
Democracy is the most utilitarian form of governance. The constant politicking, that a harangued common man often deems to be the root of our society’s problems, is in reality a manifestation of people vying for their rights. In a society where differences have multiple dimensions – class, state, ethnicity, religion and language – it becomes crucial to be able to make your priorities heard and voice them through political channels that you deem fit, such as the BSP for Dalits and the Dravidian parties for the Tamilians.
This system of parties advocating for their causes becomes a Nash Equilibrium where by trying to maximise your own constituents’ utility through rights and laws, you maximise the society’s overall utility.
A single-party government, however, is able to break down by this dynamic by prioritising its own causes without listening to anyone else. In a first-past-the-post system where a majority can be won with only around 31 percent of popular vote, this can also result in even the fractured majority of minorities being shut out. Single-party governments often end up becoming echo chambers.
Research by the psephology website FiveThirtyEight found that the people who subscribe to a political party, change their own personal ideology to fit the party’s. For instance, an atheist Republican will become more religious with his association to the party. This also explains the modern day’s growing partisanship and Adam Swift’s belief that politics was being sold in ‘bundled ideas’.
While this phenomenon is not mutually exclusive to single-party governments, the sense of power asymmetry associated with incumbency catalyses and reinforces the party belief among the party cadre. A faux sense of righteousness is created which shuts down dissent from both within and outside the party. Thus we see more partisanship and stronger voicing of issues such as the Ram Mandir.
A single-party government also allows for the concentration of power in the hands of the few. The very fact that we generally refer to earlier governments as NDA-1, UPA-1 and this government almost exclusively as the ‘Modi government’ portrays how single-party majorities can lead to the rise of personality cults, which can demolish democracy both within and outside national parties.
Even though technically still revolving around one family, a number of Congress leaders still carried a lot of weight in the UPA era (some of whom left the party with their own political base), whereas the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today is undoubtedly run by a select few. Challenging a leader in power is tough within a party with the majority as the stakeholders of the party – donors, party rank and file and voters value power.
Coalition politics also stops a single party from railroading their agenda – as shown through the Land Acquisition Bill and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which while opposed by many stakeholders would have been implemented nonetheless if the BJP had a majority in the Rajya Sabha. Thus, coalitions politics allows for the voice of the varying stakeholders to be heard, and is a system which preserves democracy.
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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