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A case for rag-tag Coalitions…

teamworkA case for rag-tag Coalitions

Whether it is UPA, NDA or third front, exit polls have stated that they will head rag-tag coalitions.

I know most people don’t like coalitions. Coalition is a bad word for many in businesses, as it is unstable in nature with lot of ideological conflicts. Businesses would naturally feel happy with a single party or a coalition of like-minded parties to govern the country.

But I think they are wrong. Coalitions and regional parties are good for India. Though they hinder businesses in short term, they help businesses in long term. And Unlike Shekhar Gupta, I don’t mind or despise such a rag-tag coalition either of the UPA or NDA or the Left.

A single party rule or a coalition of like minded parties is not necessarily good for our country. A country with diverse demographics which has no monolith economy or aspirations is fit to be governed only by a coalition of parties that are not on the same ideological boat. An ideologically similar combine can run this country amok in one direction. It is better to have several push’s and pull’s in a combine while regional aspirations are played to the fore.

The above looks like a recipe for stagnation. Markets will dive down once such a combination comes up. But believe me. This is what is good for the country in the long term. Stock Markets are not the *real* index of development of a country.  India needs to get out of the Stock Market Syndrome as soon as possible, if we need to build on the development story.

Regional forces to the fore: Case of South India

The extra-ordinary growth story of India is happening and will continue to happen exactly in synchronous with demolition of Single party system. In the times when Single parties ruled the country, India was called an ‘Elephant’. Our slow growth rate was ridiculed as ‘Hindu’ rate of growth. (not in population). Once the single party got destroyed and various coalitions started happening, India witnessed a tremendous growth not just in IT, but almost in every field, except agriculture.

In India, the basis of Indian Democracy is the federal set-up that has been adequately set up in the constitution by our fore-fathers. This set-up helps to make the power center at Delhi, a mosaic of powers of states and not vice versa.

Till the time a single party ruled the country and the states were simply following the center’s diktat, there was no force in governance. From the time regional forces sprang up in the name of regionalism and caste-ism, the center is becoming a representation of the states and governance became very important.

Today India is truly democratic because Delhi is not decided by L.K. Advani or Sonia Gandhi. It is decided by the leaders of the states and sometimes leaders of few regions.

Till the time Congress was ruling the country, most of the developments were happening in the north of India and very little was flowing south. Uttar Pradesh, Madya Pradesh and Bihar decided the country. Any projects that came stopped in North of India.

Today the situation is totally reverse. The south of India runs the country. And south of India has extremely developed, while north is lagging far behind. So many infrastructure projects and new age businesses were located in the South of India in the last two decades, compared to the previous four decades.

Again north of India is lagging far behind because people of these states have been taken for granted by the National Parties. There was no regional force that could fight only for their interests. There was no TDP, DMK, AIADMK, BJD, SP, BSP or atleast LDF( which is only a regional force) there to fight for their interests.

Regional Parties: Pressure to Perform

It is true that National Parties have a fundamentally well established outlook and are good for us strategically.

But then National Parties have always failed to own responsibilities of the region they represent. If they fail in one region in an election, they try to catch up in another region. A Regional party will have much more at stake and hence will definitely fight for the region.

If National Parties are being returned to power in States, it may be only because there was no better alternative for them. They may be returned to power though they might not have done anything to develop the region because of the TINA factor.

If Regional parties have to return to power, they need to be achieving something for the region. Otherwise they will get dumped. Only when they perform they can win. Regional parties can win few times based on caste combinations. But they will bite the dust or get fragmented after that, if they do not perform. Hence regional parties will be more business friendly than the National parties.

There is always an alternative for a regional party. This is the lesson of RJD in Bihar and SP in UP.

If BSP emerges as a regional force of UP solidly with adequate parliamentary representation and if Mayawati learns the lesson of regional parties by looking at south of India (or even Nitish in Bihar if predictions hold good), I am sure UP will witness massive influx of projects deep into it in the next few years. Mayawati has to show herself off as a regional force fighting for regional development. Whether Mayawati will guide it like that is another question that I can’t answer.

If she tries to compound all the Dalits of all the states and form a Dalit based National party, she may get some votes in some other states, but surely will loose steam in UP itself. And then is sure to go out of currency.

In case of south of India, whether it is DMK, AIADMK or TDP regional parties have definitely helped the region. Even in Karnataka, erstwhile Janata Party/ Janata Dal was a regional force than a national force, which developed Bangalore. Currently a good regional player is absent in Karnataka, given that JD(S) has managed to spoil itself. But it can rebound in future.

We would be witnessing more and more regional forces coming into play in India, for eg. in Assam, Maharashtra, Jharkand etc. And they would be good for India as a whole in the long term, though they might appear as obstacles in the short term.

And so take heart, if a rag-tag coalition is going to govern us for the next few years. India is moving ahead truly democratically.



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7 Responses

  1. You say regional parties think and do necessarily well for the regions they represent. Do you know that there is a popular concept among most political parties in India, known as “populism”?
    When there are too many regional parties, populism will dominate the Indian administration and will largely replace funds allocated to upbringing infrastructure networks and many developmental activities.
    This will not make poor people richer, but will rather make deserving people deprived. Reservation in education system is an example of this. How do you then vouch for regionalism?

    • Dear Abhirup,

      Several welfare measures are termed ‘populism’ by ‘psuedo-intellectuals’ in India. This is against all facts.

      In fact several so called populist measures have helped the deprived people to come up in their life. Noon Meal Scheme, Reservations, PDS, Nationalization, PSU’s have helped create a large middle-class in India.

      No standard model of economics would have worked in India, which is heterogenous and varying. In fact our mixed model of economics is being adopted by developed countries. Our financial system is much more regulated and much more stable. Our economic fundamentals are much better, though we can do much more.

      We have been able to create and harness entreprenuerial energies much better than many other countries of the world, through the so-called populist measures.

      Reservation has helped to create a huge change in education. It is because of reservation that large number of ‘affording; forward communities pushed through private sector participation in education, as they could not get through in Governemnt colleges. It is because of reservation a large number of otherwise not possible people and communities have come up in life.

      I am a member of forward community and has been pinched by Reservation. I understand Reservation is not the solution. Increasing the food on the table is solution. But that does not mean we can neglect the facts.

      I accept that India has progressed for the better. I accept that it is because of policies purused which were a combination of private and public sector models.

      I believe all the Right, Center and Left parties have played a good role in Indian politics. They are very much needed and all of them need to grow to push India into a non-dogmatic, not market controlled but mind controlled progress balanced with equality.

      Regional parties have played a great role by bringing development down to their regions. Though they might have overspend in populism, no party can survive just based on populism. Only parties that brought real development down have survived. In this way while National parties can try to balance a loss with another gain in another state, Regional parties cannot afford it and hence will try to do something to their constituency.


  2. Dear Maria,

    I disagree with you.

    In Indian political system there is no negative feedback through media or inner-party forums. A real negative feedback has to happen on policies and principles and stop the government from irrevocable blunders.

    A case in point is the stopping of investment of Pension funds in stockmarket, which was stopped by Left, which wud have devastated the country.

    As the media would like you to believe, instability in political system is not at all a great blocker. India progressed more in the last 2 decades with more instability than in the previous 4 decades with lot of stability.


  3. Hi,

    Seems like you have given some advantages of a coalitions. And I am one person who is happy that it did not happen. For me, an electrical engineer, who has studied feedack systems extensvely, I think you are advocating excessive feedback in terms of the push and pull in a coalition. But excessive feedback always lead to instability. Which is bad for the system.

    Even in a single party ruling system, it is not as though there is no feedback. There is feedback through the media, and a party who does not take account of that feedback is not going to come to power next time. That I would call a moderate feedback, which would bring stability to the system.

    Considering that elections are also expensive measures and frequent elections would dievrts national funds to different quarters than for development, i think a stable government is indeed important.

  4. Yes. I agree. Now I foresee emergence of new public icons this time. A fresh cabinet with a surprising majority of new ministers. Mostly young.

  5. Dear Ashok Sharma,

    Thanks for ur comments and compliments. As u said, situation turned out to be different, though the states that I thought would decide, decided the election.


  6. Great analysis, still I have some reservations about the assumed outcome. I think situation will be very different from this scenario.
    Good article. Inspiring and logical.