'Divided we stand, united we fall'

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New Delhi, Jan 13: They may have ideological differences and disagree over so many issues, but seem to be united over at least one subject - coalition politics.

Speakers from the Congress, the BJP and the CPI(M) at a panel discussion here were unanimous that coalitions at the Centre were there to stay. However, they hastened to add that the coalition would survive at least for sometime till national parties -- the Congress, the BJP and the Left -- revive their dominance.

The discussion on Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and Shankar Raghuraman's book, titled Divided We Stand: India in a Time of Coalitions, was organised by Press Club of India.

Senior Congress leader and Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitley and CPI(M) politburo member Sitaram Yechury partcipated in the discussion.

Initiating the debate, Mr Reddy said the coalition, having representation of various groups, serve their own purpose.

''I don't think the coalitions will survive for too long. They may be there for sometime...about five to ten years...till national parties are able to revive their dominance,'' he asserted.

The Congress leader said the national parties have great opportunities lying in store, but for that they need to strengthen themselves first.

''The Congress needs to strategise and organise itself and reach out to both the represented and non-represented social groups. There is a huge churning in Hindu society.

''Similarly, the BJP to prove its credentials as a truly nationalist and moderate party has to reach out to all sections of the society,'' he said.

For the CPI(M), Mr Reddy advised the party to join the coalition government at the Centre and look after the whole country rather than few states. ''They should try to become less left,'' he said.

The Union Minister said the regional parties have become more strong in the recent years due to conflict in different assertions on ideological issues.

Speaking on the issue, Mr Jaitley said that the country has entered an era of coalition politics. ''This is the reality of federal polity in India. Pre-electoral alliances have won majorities and not a single party. This gradual process started evolving after 1984, but the turning point came after 1991. Since then, the whole concept of national elections has undergone a major change.'' During the past few years, he said the relevance of national elections have gone down in contrast to regional polls.

The BJP leader further said post-Mandal several regional parties emerged on the political scene of the country.

''Whereas the BJP and the Congress find it very difficult to resist anti-incumbency factor, the regional parties do so very easily due to several factors,'' he added.

Mr Jaitley said the ''shrunken'' Congress has enabled the BJP to emerge as an alternative pole in the national politics and led to the coalition era.

''Coalitions are there to stay. They may be difference in the way the coalitions are run. If partners are willing to travel along on governance...then it is sure to last. If the stress is more on regional politics, the coalition is definitely going to disintegrate,'' he added.

Talking on the subject, Mr Yechury said fracture mandate in elections could not be termed as regression of Indian polity.

''By throwing a fractured mandate, the voters are reacting to promises not delivered. It is in fact, maturation of Indian polity and democracy. This process is going to continue.'' The CPI(M) leader said coalitions have come to stay as different forces were emerging at different times and places to raise different issues. ''The coalition era is a major transition from two party system,'' he added.

Mr Yechury stressed the need for moving towards systemic change in Indian parliamentary democracy and advocated proportionate representation in the country.

''The change is a must to prevent anarchy,'' he added.


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