In the late 1990s and early 2000s the idea which had floated around was that the era of single-party governance was over (fake one frankly). A new phase had arrived. It was felt coalitions reflect the rainbow that India is and have finally come to stay to reflect the humongous diversity of the country. There was an atmosphere of joy and celebration about this change. That happened in the backdrop of the assertion of the regional parties in India and coming apart of the grand old Party of India, which made it impossible for any single party to win a majority in the parliamentary elections. It was compulsory for the national parties to forge alliances with regional parties to win the elections and stay in power. That alliance forging put internal curbs on authoritarian tendencies of the parties. The alliances had to adopt what was known as the coalition-dharma, offering respect to the mutual aspirations and lending sanctity to the mutual existence. A common minimum program was frame and sought to be implemented. The UPA and the so-called NDA now are offshoots of that period, and supposedly working according to the coalition-dharma.
ARRIVAL OF DHARMA
Now the situation has changed. The coalition is superficial and deep down it is dharma that is running the show. The coalition-dharma politics is substituted by dharmic politics. Even now technically the party ruling at the center is a coalition of parties but practically it is just one party with reins elsewhere. Or may be just one man, a superman, if you like it. The regional energy of regional parties has almost surrendered before the release of dharmic energy. Apparently, the linchpin of the coalition is the BJP which is soiled with the sound and colour of the dharma. You may call it, in deference to the Hindu dharma, a hijacking of the faith towards a political end, but it is currently reaping rich benefits using the aura of the dharma. The notion of the coalition dharma is replaced by the dharma of the coalition. And currently the dharma of the coalition is the majority-dharma, a certain understanding of the majority religion, which has swayed even the moderate sections. According to this dharma you are an infidel, a Hindu infidel, if you raise questions against its operations. Which are, by the way, in full swing not only in the form of grisly public executions like that of the one in Rajasthan, but also in the churning undergoing in institutions.
The creaks in the coalition dharma emerged when corruption began to be covered up in the name of the coalition compulsion. During the UPA regime, the coalition became a mask for satisfying the greed of the partners. And all was ignored in order to save the coalition; corruption and coalition became synonymous. To expose the corruption was tantamount to breaking the coalition. So it was considered pragmatic to keep the coalition and the corruption at the same time. The corrupt scratching the back of coalition and the latter scratching the back of the corrupt. That unusual marriage between the two was tapped by the BJP, and provided an alternative vision of a coalition which his free of the taint of corruption. To offer a strong and inclusive vision, the NDA made strong linkages and came up with a common minimum program (of the kind Ram Madhav made in J&K lately, to wrap down under the mat later on).
The coalition dharma underscored the need to respect the individual constituencies of the coalition partners. Which meant observing the norms of the secular polity as a common link. The norms sanctified by the constitution, as the most supreme and unimpeachable document of the country. No doubt corruption has been reduced, if not eradicated, but a new nuisance has come on the surface, and in a very dangerous manner. Which is reasonably more dangerous than the malaise of corruption. Because the new trend is seeking to change the constitutional precepts which stayed like a dominating shadow over the coalitions, even if they were corrupt. Now dharma is the determining factor, not the common minimum program. The media is awash with dharmic noise along with the creation of suitable "raakshas." In any case, the common minimum program exists in name only because one party is holding a brute majority. It is dharma which is shaping the contours of the coalition. The constitution is in the backdrop looking over as dharma is casting its wings far and wide. It is a matter of time, at the current speed, that the constitution will be made superimposed by the dharma. So great and penetrating is the reach of this dharma that the word "neech" was usefully linked with "zaat"; the PM touted that he was associated with the lower castes. If he did not know that it will fetch him votes, he would not have used it in a public rally. The opposition coalition is using not the constitution and its principles to defeat the dharmic-coalition but is taking recourse to the same means. How can that be successful without changing its own position and character? If you use religion to defeat religion-based politics then you will have to live with the religion which generated support for you.
Dharma versus constitution
That constitution is not used by the opposition is a remarkable indicator. It indicates something far deeper than we can see. The vital connection between the constitution and the masses is flimsy. Otherwise, it should not have been so easy for the ruling "coalition" to ride roughshod over it and put it aside to use the "enemy's" tool to win over the masses. We saw a great parade of dharma from the opposition in Gujarat. The "scientific temper" which the first Prime Minister of India wanted to inculcate among the masses is replaced now by the dharmic temper. In times yet to come, things far more worrisome will come on the horizon, unless dharmic-coalition is not removed by the dharma of coalition.