The recent hullabaloo in the coalition exercise of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has awakened the interest of political scientists to discuss Dharma in coalition politics, Neethi in policy making of a coalition arrangement and Karma of the coalition leader. Though none of them predicted the fall of UPA, the power hungry regional parties tested the waters of the advantageous scenario. Other than abstaining from the floor of the house, the trivial outside support is mostly discussed in Delhi politics. Most of the times, I wonder how the ownership varies in the decision making in a power structure in different scenarios like; when you are single ruling political party, in a coalition partner in the ruling regime, an outside supporter of the ruling coalition and an absentee from the voting on the floor of the house. The latter position is mostly construed, when politically and policy wise, one is not supportive of the ruling party or coalition. I could not find many theoretical arguments to substantiate the difference in philosophy of these different arrangements except the stake and cajoling one has to do in the ruling regime. Narasimha Rao government survived the tenure with the support from outside though it was minority in arithmetic and UPA 1 also had to sail through the troubled waters in the infamous vote for money incident on the floor. Both narrate how it is important for the regional parties to bargain for their better share in the power making even in the troubled and sober times of the democratic processes.
Coalition governments at the Centre are recent phenomena with successive governments of such types from 1996 onwards where as State like Kerala has experienced this phenomenon for more than a quarter of a century. Political scientists argued that it is the emergence of regional parties that led to the fractured mandate resulting coalition arrangement at the Centre. My view while agreeing with the established academic interpretations differs in one count; it is also caused by the power and power sharing at various levels of the government represented by the elected political representatives. I strongly believe that the emergence of regional parties and splinter groups are the result of lack of power sharing or absence of power sharing within the party or at the local or the regional level. When millions of party workers toil towards the success of their party rule, denial of the opportunities by the seniors or dynasties can betray the faith and conviction emerged out of their slogging. This has led to the splinter groups in the past.
At the national level, the emergence of regional parties resulted in the fractured mandate. On the same breath, many political scientists argued that General Elections are fought on different issues compared to those in local election. In the coalition arrangements at the Centre, the regional parties ask for the bigger share eyeing for the key ministries. In the recent fiasco also, Mamatadi has been causing troubles for the ruling Government for many months. As many suspected, what is the intention or interests of leaders like Mamata or Mulayam or Lalu or Jayalalitha in the national set up? As our power struggle goes (especially after 90s), Delhi inhouses not only the power centres but those associated with wealth also.The major reason is that of the lack of decentralization of power from Centre to State capitals.
Whether it is 2G scam or CoalGate, the swindled fortune (if so, reasons to believe) is in the hands of those politicians in the Centre. Then how do the regional parties react? They will bark, bite or hiss according to the opportunities. If in the federal set up, proper and adequate power structure was devolved between the Centre and State, I don’t think AirIndia flights to Delhi from State Capitals would have loaded with the regional satraps. In UK, the mother of democracy, the discussion is alive on the abolition of House of Lords. The Upper House has lost its sheen and power and become very ornamental asking the detractors to annul it. It is how the democracy evolves over the years. In India as well, the power has to go the State Capitals and local bodies from the corridors of North and South Blocs. Hope the decision to ask States to opt for FDI in retail or not is the correct step in the direction.
Dr D Dhanuraj is the Chairman and Managing Trustee of CPPR. He holds a PhD in Science & Humanities (Anna University), MSc Physics (Mahatma Gandhi University) and MA Political Science (Madras Christian College). He also holds a Post Graduate Executive Diploma in International Business from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, Chennai, and has undergone training by TTMBA of Atlas USA, IAF Germany, FEE USA, etc. His core areas of expertise are in urbanisation, urban transport & infrastructure, education, health, livelihood, law, and election analysis. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @dhanuraj