Art of Coalition

Rajan Gandhi
Coalition is arrangement between distinct political parties as and when it becomes necessary in a multi- party system with no single party commanding a majority. After independence, the Indian National Congress was the only national party which remained in power both at the centre as well as in the states right from 1947 to 1967 with a monolithic character.  After 1967 general elections, India witnessed a new era in Indian politics that signified the process of transferring the power to various parties and party coalitions in more than half of the Indian states. However, Congress managed to rule at the centre till 1977 when it was voted out of power by the coalition Government led by Janata Party. Janata Government collapsed in 1979 to the ambitions of various group leaders. The flavor of coalition era at national level was again visible with the formation of minority Governments by National Front (1989) and United Front (1996). However, real Coalition Government of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) consisting of 24 constituent parties was formed at the centre in 1999 and it was the first non Congress Government to complete its full term. The experiment was unique in the sense that BJP had to share power with parties and groups ideologically different. Again in 2004 NDA Government was replaced by 14 party Coalition Government under the grand alliance of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by Congress (I) which was again replaced by NDA in 2014.
However, the coalition experiment in Jammu and Kashmir first emerged in 1986 in the wake of Rajiv-Farooq alliance by which both parties agreed to work for common candidates in all the 76 constituencies. Prior to this alliance Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, then in Congress, was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha as the NC did not field a candidate, notwithstanding the fact that the NC had earlier held the vacant seat.  This Coalition Government was result of opportunistic politics of sharing power. Though, the Rajiv-Farooq alliance and the consequent Coalition Government was formed at the level of central leadership of both parties, yet they were unable to find acceptability by the ground cadres. So the differences that existed between the coalition partners hampered the smooth running of the Government. The stress and strain in the alliance at different levels ultimately wrecked it and the mayhem caused by this resulted in three decades of violence which is still continuing unabated. The second Coalition Government was formed after 2002 elections between Congress and a newly emergent regional party PDP (People’s Democratic Party). A system of rotation of Chief Minister’s post between Congress and PDP alternately was worked out within the broad policy framework of ‘Khushaal Kashmir’ and ‘Healing Touch’. The Government collapsed after nearly completing its term under the weight of serious contradictions. Jammu and Kashmir with many regional, sub-regional and religious fault-lines is a challenge to coalition politics and people do not have good experience of coalition governance in the state.
The December 2014 Assembly election, which recorded one of the highest voter turnouts in Jammu and Kashmir, led to PDP emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats and BJP 25. Present coalition started first from March 2015 to January 2016 when Mufti Mohammed Sayeed became CM and after his death after some delay, Mehbooba Mufti became the first woman to hold the CM office in J and K , India’s only second Muslim woman CM after Syeda Anwara Taimur of Assam. Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had rightly dubbed the alliance as the meeting of “North Pole and South Pole” and PM Modi described the alliance as a “historic opportunity” to fulfill the aspirations of the people of J&K to take the state to new heights of progress .Observing the fate of earlier alliance of PDP with Congress, BJP wisely agreed to PDP having the CM for the full six-year term.
The so called “Agenda of Alliance” (AoA) was released, a document that aimed to give some insight into how the two parties plan to tackle some of tough issues. On AFSPA, AoA states that the Coalition Government will thoroughly review security situation in state with a view to examine need and desirability of all the special laws being applied to state and on Article 370, while recognizing the different positions of both parties the present position will be maintained on all the constitutional provisions including special status. BJP has till now kept its promise on Article 370 but BJP protested against Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for labeling opponents of article 370 as anti-national and the Speaker of the Assembly was quick to ‘expunge’ the remarks of the CM following the protest. This AoA was an effort towards seeking a national reconciliation on J&K with numerous promises like the State Government will be transformed into a Smart Government which will be proactive, transparent and accountable; it will be reformed and redesigned to be an enabler for business and a strategic partner for long term private sector growth. It shall be the mission of the Coalition Government to be the most ethical state in the country from the present day position of being the most corrupt state. For this new governance systems shall be introduced with national support and international expertise to provide honest, effective inclusive governance and service delivery. It will be ensured that powers and decentralization of decision making is in practice devolved to three tiers- Panchayats, Municipalities and Corporations. The third tier of governance will be empowered to discharge their statutory functions effectively and efficiently by giving them functional roles, fiscal responsibilities. Assurances on genuine autonomy of institutions of probity, which include State Accountability Commission, Vigilance Commission, which will be re-designated as Transparency Commission and an organization which deals with the Right to Information Act were given. Working out a one-time settlement for refugees from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir of 1947, 1965 and 1971 with adequate measures for sustenance and livelihood of the West Pakistan Refugees as well as extending all benefits accruing to the people living on the LoC to the people living on the International Border is part of AoA. Making the families of the victims in cross border firing qualify for benefits given under SRO 43.Construction of shelters in vulnerable areas on the LoC and IB to prevent loss of life. Protecting and fostering ethnic and religious diversity by ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits with dignity based on their rights as state subjects and reintegrating as well as absorbing them in the Kashmiri milieu. Constituting a Delimitation Commission as required by law was also agreed to. Creating model business villages, for example, to build a Model Basmati Village in Jammu and a Model Apple Village in Kashmir as well as developing two mega cities: Greater Srinagar and Greater Jammu ,along with that development of  two satellite cities of New Srinagar and New Jammu is also there in AoA with many more promises.
Though intentions are perfect but inability to deliver on ground on almost every front of AoA have put both the PDP and BJP in dilemma; PDP’s popularity has taken a steep dip after it joined hands with the BJP to form the Government in the state, something that was evident by the lack of large numbers of people at Mufti’s funeral, loss of Srinagar Parliamentary elections to NC and repeated deferment of Anantnag parliamentary election along with panchayat elections. Similarly BJP facing the wrath of people for sacrificing it’s ideology on the issues of  articles 370, 35A, Rohingyas, minutes of Tribal meeting , Pakistan Zindabad slogans in the Assembly, ADC issue, handling of rape case to name a few. The Government failed to implement the ‘Agenda of Alliance’ on the economic front as well despite almost one lakh crore package announced by PM. CM has even sacked its own FM Haseeb Drabu at the altar of politics.
BJP has perfected the art of coalition with successive alliance Governments in Bihar, Goa, Maharasthra, entire North East to name.BJP knows the importance of being partner of J&K Government and as such it cannot simply say goodbye to the PDP and walk out of the Government as after losses in Delhi, Bihar, recently in UP by polls and with TDP – Shiv Sena already announcing their departure from NDA , BJP simply cannot afford to lose Jammu and Kashmir as well. In the current debate on intolerance, a BJP Government in a Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir is important as well as crucial. Same is the case of PDP who will be the biggest loser if the coalition collapses. Both the partners must understand that not confrontation with each other but only overall development on all fronts under PMDP can save the day for the coalition. Art of coalition is at its prime right now as things are a bit difficult for both the sides and it will be interesting to see who will blink first and call it a day. Factually politics is not about winning Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha but it is the responsibility to build a society to make the world a better place for mankind.