Sadda Haq: What’s More Effective? Coalition or Majority Govt?

India has witnessed a mix of stable and unstable coalition governments at the Centre since 1977. 

Updated01 Apr 2019, 03:57 PM IST
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What is a coalition government? When does the need to form it arise? Is it an effective form of government? In the second episode of Sadda Haq, The Quint will answer all these questions that you may have on the merits and demerits of a government that is formed in partnership.

What is a coalition government?

When a single party fails to secure the number of seats required to form a government and thereby joins hands with other parties to get the requisite numbers, the government thus formed is called a coalition government.

Simply put, a coalition government comprises more than one party, when no single party enjoys absolute majority in the House.

Have there been coalition governments before?

Since 1977, India has witnessed 11 coalition governments at the Centre. For instance, Dr Manmohan Singh served as Prime Minister for two continuous terms. He led the UPA government in 2004, and then in 2009, which was a coalition of more than 10 parties.

Are coalitions stable?

Data specific to India suggests that coalitions can both be stable and unstable. In fact, of the 11 coalition governments India witnessed since 1977, only three served their complete term of five years.

  • AB Vajpayee (1999-2004)
  • Dr Manmohan Singh (2004-2009)
  • Dr Manmohan Singh (2009-2014)

But, there are also governments that were unstable and couldn’t fulfil their full term. AB Vajpayee’s government, for instance, lasted only 13 days in 1996, after he unsuccessfully tried to stitch together a coalition government. Similarly, Charan Singh’s government fell in 1980, within six months of coming to power. Singh’s coalition crashed after Congress (I) withdrew support.

However, this does not mean that coalitions are ineffective. The Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998, the economic reforms of 1991 – all these crucial policy decisions were implemented by coalition governments.

A complex mix of political parties, coalitions can survive only if all stakeholders adhere to the coalition dharma – a balancing principle that binds all parties.

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Published: 18 Mar 2019, 06:57 AM IST
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