After a long stint of a kind of monopoly of the Congress under Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and the minority government of PV Narasimha Rao, the country has been witnessing, since the mid-1990s, an era of coalition politics that seems inescapable even after the BJP gained a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own
After independence, Congress became the largest party in India. The split in the party was first witnessed in 1969 with Congress (R) headed by Indira Gandhi and the Congress (O) headed by K Kamaraj and later by Morarji Desai. After the 1969 election, the Congress won the majority but lost 78 seats that it had won in the previous election.
In the 1971 election, opposition parties Jana Sangh, Congress (O), Swatantra party and SSP formed the National Democratic Front (NDF) to counter Congress (R), which was led by Indira Gandhi. This can be considered the first full-fledged coalition. But Congress (R), which transformed into Congress (I) by then, won the election with a majority (352 seats) and the NDF remained in the opposition.
The Congress came back as the dominant party again. However, the decision to impose emergency from 1975 to 1977 for 21 months by Indira Gandhi proved costly to the Congress (I).
In 1977 elections, the opposition got together as the Janata Party, which included the Congress (O), Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal as well as defectors from the Congress (I). Motivated by the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan, a united opposition, without forming a front or party, fought against Congress (I) and won with 330 seats out of 520 in the sixth Lok Sabha elections and Morarji Desai became the Prime Minister. Interestingly, the Janata Party was formed after this historic victory by bringing together several politicians, parties and other mutually disparate groups.
However, the first coalition headed to a disaster as the dual citizenship of some members of the Janata Party with the RSS created problems. This led to freedom fighter Raj Narain breaking away from the Janata Party and forming a new party, Janata Secular. This was followed by a no-confidence motion in 1979 when the coalition government couldn't prove its majority.
Despite the failure, the Janata Party laid a strong foundation for coalition governments in India.
This failure led to the domination of the Congress again in the country. The Congress formed governments at the Centre without any alliances in 1980 and 1984, getting a landslide 401 seats in the second.
In the 1989 election, VP Singh brought together regional parties such as the Telugu Desam Party, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and the Asom Gana Parishad and formed the National Front. This Front got outside support from the Left Front and Bharatiya Janata Party. This National Front won against the Congress.
But Prime Minister VP Singh's decision to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission, giving 27% reservation to Other Backward Classes, led the BJP to withdraw its support from the National Front. The government couldn't prove its majority on the floor of the House and it thus fell on 7 November 1990.
This led to a split in the National Front as the Janata Dal (Samajwadi), with 55 members under the leadership of Chandrashekhar, staked claim to form the government with the outside support of the Congress. Chandrashekhar became the PM on 10 November 1990.
This coalition too ran into problems when the Congress withdrew its support due to the issue of surveillance of Rajiv Gandhi and the government fell on 6 March 1991.
In the 1991 elections, there was a hung Parliament again. Yet, the Congress as the single largest party formed the government. Later, leader Ajith Singh's party merged with Congress and the party also got the outside support of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).
In the 1996 election, no party got the majority and BJP emerged as the single largest party with 187 seats and Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed the government on 16 May 1996. As he could not prove his majority in Parliament, the government fell on 27 May 1996 in just 13 days.
Following this, HD Deve Gowda, the leader of the United Front, was called to form the government. The United Front was a coalition of 13 parties — Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, DMK, TDP, AGP, All India Indira Congress (Tiwari), Left Front (4 parties), Tamil Maanila Congress, National Conference, and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, with the outside support of the Congress.
On 11 April 1997, the United Front had to undergo a floor test as the Congress withdrew its support due to a CBI inquiry into the Congress president's disproportionate assets case. The United Front failed to prove its majority, but the United Front later came to an understanding with the Congress when Janata Dal leader IK Gujral was made the PM.
Soon, problems became evident when the Congress wanted the DMK to be removed from the United Front, but the Front refused. This led to the Congress withdrawing its support on 28 November 1997.
In 1998 elections, the BJP had learnt its lesson and this time fought election with the support of 13 other parties: All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Samata Party, Biju Janata Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal, Nationalist Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Lok Shakti, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhhagam, Haryana Vikas Party, Janata Party, Mizo National Front, NTR TDP(LP) and won the election.
The AIADMK proved to be problematic as party chief Jayalalithaa withdrew her support as she wanted DMK to be ousted from the alliance. This led to the falling of the government.
In 1999, the 13th Lok Sabha election was held. The BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with 16 other parties: Janata Dal (United), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Samata Party, Biju Janata Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal, Nationalist Trinamool Congress, Shiv Sena, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Lok Shakti, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhhagam, Haryana Vikas Party, Indian National Lok Dal, Mizo National Front, Sikkim Democratic Front, Manipur State Congress Party, Telugu Desam Party (External support). The NDA won 299 votes and formed the government. Post-election, the NDA was joined by some other parties including the National Conference, Mizo National Front, Sikkim Democratic Front and the number of alliance parties increased to 24. This coalition government successfully completed the five-year term.
Congress fought elections with Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal and United Democratic Front.
In 2004 elections, the NDA got 181 seats and the parties that were hitherto the opposition got 218 seats. Many opposition parties then came together and sought the additional numbers from the Left Front, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The Left Front did not become a part of the Prime Minister's council of ministers after the UPA government was formed. In 2008, the Left Front withdrew its support from the UPA, protesting the India–United States civilian nuclear agreement. However, the UPA narrowly survived a vote of confidence.
In the 2009 elections again, the UPA got the majority with 262 votes and Congress alone had won 206 seats. This government too continued its term.
In the 2014 elections, the NDA won 336 seats led by the BJP that won 282 seats on its own. The UPA just managed to get just 59 seats, with the Congress reduced to 44. Thus, currently, there is no official opposition party in the country as no opposition party has attained 10% of the Lok Sabha seats, which is a minimum requirement. Earlier, there had been no opposition party in India between 1950 and 1977; 1994 and 1998.
The country awaits its next general election in 2019.
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Last Updated 4, Jul 2018, 9:48 AM