Coalition ethics

Coalition ethics

The formation of a new coalition government in Meghalaya has put an end to the two-month old political crisis in the state but has raised some uncomfortable constitutional and political questions. The state governor, R S Mooshahary, recommended imposition of Central rule in March even after the then Nationalist Congress Party-United Democratic Party government had won a confidence vote in the state Assembly. The Speaker’s role in the confidence vote was not above board but the answer should not have been the imposition of President’s rule. The Congress, which was in the Opposition, obviously had an interest in that and the Governor seemingly obliged. It is unfortunate that when the UPA government had only weeks to complete its term, it should have resorted to a measure of dubious merit in a small state. 

President’s rule has now been lifted and the Congress has formed a new coalition government under its leader D D Lapang with the United Democratic Party as its partner, leaving the NCP, its UPA partner at the Centre, in the lurch. Negotiations were on between the NCP, which is a major party in the state with 14 members in the 55-member house, for formation of a new government. Even the Prime Minister was involved in the parleys. The Congress perhaps had a better bargain about ministerial berths  with the UDP, but the treatment meted out to the NCP casts doubts about the Congress’ commitment  to its partners. The party’s attitude to coalitions has always been suspect which has again been confirmed by its conduct in Meghalaya.

Meghalaya, as other small states in the North-East, is known for defections and political instability. Lapang’s is the third government in the last 14 months. The state has had coalition governments for decades but coalition ethics have not evolved to ensure stability of governments. The flouting of constitutional correctness by Central governments and acts of political impropriety on the part of national parties have compounded the problem. It is good that President’s rule has ended in the state and a representative government has assumed office. But these decisions should not be based on partisan political considerations which only vitiate the democratic process. The experience in Meghalaya and other states also underline the need to plug the loopholes in the anti-defection law and make it more effective.

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