Are Coalitions Corrupt?

The working of coalition governments in J&K raises a plethora of questions



Speaking at India Today State of the States Conclave of the 2012 Omar Abdullah candidly stated that ‘’it is impossible to root out corruption in a coalition government’. He, however, is optimistic about the potential of democracy in improving and stabilizing systems. I have no problem in understanding Omar’s constraints as head of a coalition government as he had to induct ministers from the partner party who had tainted image even when they were part of Mufti Syed led coalition arrangement. The principles of probity and honesty were buried at Jammu during the oath taking ceremony of the Omar-led government. However, Omar made a very dangerous statement at the conclave when he stated that the Arvind Kejriwals of the world will come and go but we (politicians) will always be there and the people will eventually come back to us.
He may have to understand two things quickly that Anna movement has seen cabinet ministers, leading politicians going to jail and more importantly as wise persons  believe  that when a crime occurs, half the punishment goes to guilty, a quarter to his ally and another quarter falls  to those who remain silent. The fact is that people’s movements in India and outside have taken heavy toll on arrogant and undemocratic regimes. The Jayprakash Narayan led movement had the capacity to dent the then congress led government at Centre when corruption had started eating into the vitals of Indian polity. There are multiple questions we need to raise at this time in J&K about the working and formation of coalition governments. This has become necessary as coalitions have now almost become a norm and model of governance both at centre and in the states. My untested hypothesis is that corruption in the coalition government is the byproduct of two things - the large size of the government, and, not power, but the fear of losing power with one or the other coalition partner that drives the apparatus of corruption. Another, viable institutional mechanisms to run a coalition can help reduce the element of instability in the government or else the power will shift to non-elected institutions.
         A coalition is an alliance between two or more hitherto separate or even hostile groups or parties formed in order to carry on the government and share the principal offices of the state. Coalitions in Europe have been arrangements for postponement of an unwanted election. Omar Abdullah’s point has advocates somewhere in the camp of those who argue that coalitions are not fit in a Westminster model. England, said Benjamin Disraeli in 1852, does not love coalitions. Ramsay Mac Donald believed that coalitions are dishonest. Both were heading governments as Prime Ministers. Let us for a while forget about coalitions elsewhere and come to understand ground realities in Kashmir and dissect the complexity of the matter.
J&K has graduated into a coalition era with the demise of one dominant party system led by J&K National Conference. The National Conference leadership finds fault with the origin of Mufti-led People’s Democratic Party. Some leaders are quoted in the print media as attributing the rise of PDP to huge money that poured from somewhere just to cut National Conference to size in a manner that electoral base of NC gets divided between the two valley based parties. It is also argued that this arrangement has resulted into a sort of permanent political and electoral interlocution by the congress party. This ironically came out loudly from Prof Saifudin Soz - chief of congress party in the state who recently said that no government can be formed in the state without his party.  This tricky question may be left for those who are qualified enough to understand conspiracy theories. However, the NC leadership may have to understand that after the assassination of Indira Gandhi a generational shift took place in the Congress party and Mufti Mohammad Syed, like other tall Congress leaders in some states, got politically blocked and found no other way to survive politically except through formation of new regional parties. This happened in many other Indian states. This was also exactly the time in Indian politics when regional aspirations and grievances were finding violent expression. Nearer home, Mufti also might have felt the heat of being always on the right side of Centre and farther from the people of Kashmir valley - his turf; and surely establishment of a regional party has given him almost a political rebirth. He headed a coalition government with Congress and has become a serious political player. The point to be noted is that in a triangular electoral contest formation of a coalition government is now inevitable. Now the formation of coalition government between NC and PDP is ruled out in the foreseeable future for reasons known well to politically conscious Kashmiris. Hence the key question for students of political science is how best certain institutions, mechanisms and processes can be either created or evolved so that there is growth of not only a coalition Dharma but more importantly a culture of coalition too. Be that as it may, let us survey working of different coalition governments that were formed in the state from the standpoint of corruption, efficiency and stability. The next column will hopefully answer these issues.

Lastupdate on : Fri, 7 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 7 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 8 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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