world : Will coalition turn domineering Modi into a humbler leader?

world : Will coalition turn domineering Modi into a humbler leader?
world : Will coalition turn domineering Modi into a humbler leader?

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:50 PM

Nafeza 2 world - India is no stranger to coalition governments.

Some of the world’s largest coalitions, comprising between six and a dozen parties, have been formed in the world's most populous democracy.

From 1989 to 2004, six general elections produced no single-party majority. Some of these coalitions have been particularly chaotic: between 1989 and 1999, eight were formed and many quickly collapsed.

But some of India’s most significant economic reforms and highest growth rates have come under coalition governments, led by both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Now, for the first time since 2014, India will have a coalition government, with no single-party majority.

Narendra Modi of the BJP, set for a third term as prime minister, has seen his majority reduced by a resurgent opposition, and now primarily relies on two allies in his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) for a parliamentary majority.

But will Mr Modi, who always ruled with a majority as chief minister of Gujarat state and as India’s prime minister, and dominated politics for a decade, be able to run a coalition?

Can he shed his domineering style and carry disparate regional allies along? And will he curb a growing personality cult stoked by his party and a friendly media to adopt a more consensual, humbler image?

Many believe it's unlikely to be smooth sailing for Mr Modi in a coalition.

The two allies that Mr Modi is most dependent on are two regional parties, Janata Dal (United) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP). They have 28 seats between them. Both are led by veteran, astute leaders - Nitish Kumar and N Chandrababu Naidu, respectively - who have previously served in BJP-led federal coalition governments and then quit over differences with the ruling party, specifically over Mr Modi.

In 2019, while serving as Andhra Pradesh chief minister, Mr Naidu labeled Mr Modi, then his political rival, a "terrorist", external.

Politics makes for strange bedfellows - India is no stranger to that fact.

Coalition governments dependent on just two or three allies are particularly vulnerable to collapse if even one withdraws support.

Many believe a coalition government under Mr Modi could contribute to a healthier democracy. They say it could reduce the prime minister's dominance, decentralise governance, increase checks and balances, embolden the opposition, and make institutions like the bureaucracy, judiciary and media more independent.

Atal Behari Vajpayee, one of the BJP’s stalwarts, ran a successful multi-party coalition government from 1998 to 2004. The avuncular leader privatised state-owned firms, facilitated foreign investment, built expressways, relaxed trade barriers, and even ignited an IT revolution.

He ended a decades-old moratorium on nuclear tests, eased tensions with Pakistan and built closer ties with US.

Much of this had to do with Mr Vajpayee’s consensual style.

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