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Sharing Power

K.C. Suri

By Paranjoy Guha Thakurtha and Shankar Raghuraman
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 524, Rs. 650.00


Since the 1960s, when coalition governments were formed in several states, coalition politics has engaged both political scientists and commentators alike on Indian politics. With the coalition governments becoming the norm at the union and the state levels in the last two decades, there has been a resurgence of interest in the theory and experience of coalition governments in India and their future consequences to India’s polity. The book under review Divided We Stand: India in a Time of Coalitions is one more addition to the growing literature on coalition governments. But the authors are not political scientists. They are journalists with considerable experience in the print and electronic media.   It is amazing to find how Indian democracy has come a long way from the one dominant party system of the 1950s to a coalitional party system of our times. What we have now is not just a bi-nodal coalitional party system, as Balveer Arora characterized it, but four clusters of parties (UPA, NDA, UNPA and the LF) trying their luck in the electoral arena, apart from a few other major parties jostling for power and biding their time to join one or the other front. The question asked in Indian politics these days is which alliance, not which party, will win the elections next time. The number of parties that hold power at the union or state level in India is simply astounding. Thus far, six national parties and 43 state parties have ruled or shared power either at the union or state level at some time or the other during the last decade. There are no longer any permanent ruling and permanent opposition parties in India.   Within a few years after political scientists came out with formulations on the character of the Indian party system in independent India, cracks began to appear in the one dominant party system. The 1967 general elections marked the breakdown of the Congress system and the emergence of coalition governments (Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments) in seven states. In a seminar on ‘Coalition Governments in India: Problems and Prospects’, held in 1970 at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, several leading political scientists of the time felt that coalitions were the logical outcome of democratic politics in a vast and diverse society such as India. They felt that coalitions were likely to continue in the years to come in several states. What they did not ...

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