NCP-Congress standoff: Coalition (a)dharma!

Allies are back in the news again for the wrong reasons.

Ajay Vaishnav and Pankaj Sharma/Zee Research Group

Allies are back in the news again (did we have an occasion of late when they ceased to be the headline?) for the wrong reasons. Presented with a historic opportunity to make a mark on the masses given the rather disproportionate share in the Cabinet, allies in coalition era present themselves as efficient bargainers but not always as efficient policy managers.

Having wrested critical portfolios given the fragile nature of the coalition, allies generally have stayed away from making a mark while being in the chair. Instead, there has been a vocal tendency to generate premium on nuisance value often in utter disregard for the mandate they (allies) might have never got in the first place should two party political formations have been the order of the day.

The bigger casualty of the noise the allies have often been credited with is the way the policy paralysis stigma has stuck on brand India. This inevitably would lead to the extinguishing of the ray of hope of reforms getting a second life post Presidential polls. Welcome to great Indian coalition tamasha! Or, is it democracy at its best? Team ZRG goes back and forth to draw the unhealthy contours of the allies and their politics.

ZRG analysis of last 12 years reveals that smaller allies in coalition governments have managed to get a major share in the Council of Ministers as against the largest party. Not only they are disproportionately represented in the council in terms of number of seats, but have cornered plum ministerial portfolios like the railways, telecom, civil aviation, agriculture et al.

For instance, in the incumbent government the NCP with nine MPs has got three ministers. NCP’s quota of ministers is less than the TMC which has 9 ministers against 19 MPs but greater than DMK’s 5 ministers against 18 MPs. On the other hand, Congress with 206 MPs has just 60 ministers.

Clearly, it raises doubts over Indian political parties’ to adopt and work within the framework of a common minimum programme and adhere to a ‘coalition dharma’. Isn’t it time the smaller allies too started respecting coalition dharma?