The CM’s ministers are 12, his coalition “ally” will have almost twice the number, and Legislative Assembly’s total strength of 224 will be controlled by yet another “ally”.
The third “largest” party’s leader is a Chief Minister having the backing of 38 elected Legislative Members who, as of today, constitute less than half of his “ally”— the same with which it had merrily traded insults during the poll campaign. And his party strength will be just equal to that “ally” provided his party wins the pending three elections.
A hung-Parliament situation needs a Constitutional solution that ensures stability and sustainability.
He, the leader of the government, has a Deputy Chief Minister from his party’s latest foe-turned-friend. The CM’s ministers number 12, while his coalition “ally” will have almost twice that number. And the Legislative Assembly’s total strength of 224 will be controlled by yet another “ally”. Truly, the Speaker’s post is the icing on the cake for the Chief Minister’s coalition “ally.”
This, readers, is perhaps the queerest coalition government ever delivered by our nation’s democratic framework that seems crazy at this moment.
It’s indeed a crazy democratic framework that allows elected representatives of a state to be confined as hostages, thereby murdering the much-touted freedom of speech and expression to a hotel or anywhere else, thereby murdering Article 19(i) of our nation’s Constitution. And the bigger tragedy is that the Election Commission of India is impotent, without empowerment to prevent such a murder of democracy.
It’s indeed a betrayal of voters that they who voted for a particular party to form a government find their chosen party being overnight shifted to an alliance with a political party it hates — and this, mind you, done without so much as the consent of the voters.
It’s indeed a crazy democratic framework that allows an alliance government to be formed on the basis of one past verdict or two of the country’s Supreme Court and not on the basis of a Constitutional mechanism created by the entire country’s vote in both Houses of the Parliament. Remember, even the view of one Bench of our apex court can change the view of another Bench, but a Constitutional amendment always needs the people’s mandate delivered under a substantial two-thirds majority in each House of our Parliament.
It is indeed a crazy democratic framework that permits a last-minute alliance to be formed without any written pact between the coalition partners being known to the public at large. What, for instance, is the new Karnataka alliance based on? As one member of its alliance confessed, the agenda is simply “Stop the BJP from power.” Has our democracy reached the depth where a political government is formed by hate? Sad.
In this context, even giving the President of India the power to invite a particular party to form the government of India after a hung Parliament situation is fraught with dangers for the running of the national affairs. That was clear from the time Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Vajpayee, as the leader of the largest party, to form the government of India in 1996. He had to resign in 13 days and President Sharma was largely blamed for blatantly favoring a leader belonging to his own religion.
Thereafter, no coalition ministry could complete the whole term of five years. The two National Front ministries formed at the centre between 1996 and 1998, with the support of 13 parties under the prime-ministerships of H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral had to face serious problems from the Congress Party which was supporting them from outside.
When the Congress withdrew the support to the United Front government, general elections were held in February 1998 and the BJP formed a ministry with the support of 18 regional parties. It was defeated in parliament by one vote on April 17, 1999.
Clearly, a hung-Parliament situation needs a Constitutional solution that ensures stability and sustainability. And I’m sure that our country has enough legal eagles, like Fali Nariman and Harish Salve, to do that job which can pass the whetting of our Parliament as an amendment of the Constitution of India.
Just contrast our hotchpotch with the United Kingdom. To the best of this writer’s knowledge, the UK does not have a written Constitution but has “Conventions” which are treated as being sacred as any Constitution elsewhere in the world.
The minor party/parties would commit to voting with the government on key events, but take all other votes on a case-by-case basis.
An illuminating article in “The Sunday Guardian” dated 15th April 2015 tells us the following.
“The formal coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in 2010 made them both parties of government. It had ministers from both parties and committed them to collective responsibility, with the parties expected to vote the same way on government legislation.
“A “rainbow” coalition is a deal that applies to more than two parties, while a “grand” coalition is an unlikely situation in which the two biggest parties club together.
“Another possibility for a pact is a looser “confidence and supply” arrangement. This means the minor party or parties would commit to voting with the government on key events, such as the budget and Queen’s speech, but take all other votes on a case-by-case basis. This is what the SNP, the Greens, and Ukip have said they would prefer.
“In a situation of no overall control, the incumbent government gets the first chance at creating a coalition. (As was done in Karnataka). The incumbent party could also try to govern with a minority of MPs but it would have to pass a Queen’s speech with the help of another or more than one other party.
“If they cannot do this or create a formal coalition, the prime minister will have to resign. The leader of the largest opposition party may then be invited to form a government and may do so either as a minority or in coalition with another party or parties.
“There may be a period of confusion and flux if there are two large parties trying to form coalitions with smaller ones at the same time.
“It is possible there could be a situation where Labour is talking to the Lib Dems and the SNP at the same time as the Tories are talking to the Liberal Democrats and the DUP.
“While all this is going on, the Queen will probably stay away from London and only come back when it is clear which parties are going to form a government and who will be prime minister.” Unquote
Should Indian Parliamentarians and State legislators learn from the UK convention stated above? Let’s leave it to our legal eagles, and not to Supreme Court judges.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
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