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Articulating A New Politics

Bidyut Chakrabarty

By Paranjoy Guha Thakurtha and Shankar Raghuraman
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2004, pp. 413, Rs. 350.00


Indian politics is both coalitional and region- alized. As the successive poll results show, gone are the days of a single-party rule. The thirteenth Lok Sabha is illustrative of the stupendous achievement of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in sustaining a spirit of consensus among as many as twenty-four heterogeneous parties which were united only in their basic opposition to the Congress. The process that began in the 1967 state assembly elections seems to have struck roots in the Indian soil in view of the success of the NDA government in completing a full term of five years in power despite occasional hiccups. Given the track record of the past coalition governments, the earlier apprehension on the imminent disintegration of the NDA did not appear to be entirely unfounded. What probably held the disparate NDA partners was the National Agenda that contained issues of common interests and avoided completely those issues causing distrust among its constituents. Built on mutual trust and interests in perpetrating power, the NDA is also a break with the past when coalitions fizzled out largely due to personal feud based on mutual distrust and lack of experience in running a complex administration.  Examples can easily be multiplied. The 1967 experiment of coalition governments at the state levels did not last long and its disintegration within a very short period of time was attributed to ‘defection’ that drew not on ideology but on personal rivalry among ‘the leaders’ of political parties and groups to fulfill their personal goal. The 1989 National Front government and later the United Front government in 1996 were also victims of a political game in which the individual interests seemed to have guided the process responsible for the collapse of these governments in a shorter period than anticipated. As evident, although there has been a recurrence of coalition governments their consistent failures as politically stable formations have raised doubts about their feasibility especially when elections are an expensive affair.   Here the NDA government stands out dispelling the apprehension that coalition governments are not appropriate for India. Not only has it articulated a new politics underlining the importance of coalition as a time-tested method of accommodating diverse social, cultural, economic and political interests it has also established beyond doubt the capacity of a coalition government to sincerely pursue regional goals as well as complementary to what is conventionally defined as ‘national’ goals.   The 1990s have been a decade ...

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