Author: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta
Publisher: Sage Publications
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0761932372
This topical and absorbing book, written by two eminent journalists, convincingly argues against two commonly held beliefs concerning Indian politics. Their basic premise is that India has come a long way from the time when a single party, the Congress, dominated our polity. Instead, it has give way to multi-arty configurations or coalitions which, they demonstrate, are neither temporary nor an aberration-coalitions are here to stay, they say, at least in the foreseeable future. Second, they expertly dismiss the view that India's polity is essentially bipolar, led by either of the two largest parties-the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress party-and that other political parties have no option but to choose which of these two they will align themselves with.
Skillfully piecing together the complex jigsaw of Indian politics, the authors point out that the moment we examine what is happening a the state level, it is clear that Indian politics is becoming more fragmented with the rise of caste-based and regional parties. Their conclusion is unique: coalitions are not a negative feature of India's polity but, instead, have had a positive influence on the working of the country's democratic structures. The authors take the view that coalition governments are in fact better equipped to deal with the tensions of a divided society while single-party governments tend to both centralise and homogenise. Among the numerous issues and trends cogently discussed are:
The rise of the BJP from the time it was virtually wiped out of Parliament in 1984, and it's current faction-ridden character
The dramatic decline of the Congress, especially the fact that the minorities and oppressed groups, once its largest constituency, are now deserting it in large numbers
The continuing fragmentation of the Indian polity and the rise of regional parties which are not necessarily narrow and partisan, but capable of looking at issues from a wider perspective
The changing tactics of the left and their internal differences
The crucial question of whether coalitions can provide stable Union governments
The possibility of alternate political formations-headed neither by the BJP nor the Congress-Coming to power at the centre
The extent to which political coalitions have led to better governance, brought about a greater degree of federalism, and reduced the incidence of corruption
The manner in which successive governments have handled the new politics of economic liberalization and the central issues of growth with equity
Challenging many widely held views regarding India's polity and political processes, this fascinating book will be widely read by anyone interested in Indian politics at the beginning of the 21st century.
List of Abbreviations
Preface: Diversity in Unity
Introduction: India in a Time of Coalitions
Bharatiya Janata Party:
In Search of the Right Strategy
Indian National Congress:
A Return to Family Values
Caste in Stone:
Politics of the Hindi Heartland
Small is Beautiful:
Rooted in Region
Left Parties: Caged Birds?
Friends in Need:
Are Coalitions Inherently Unstable?
Friends in Deed: Can Coalitions Govern Effectively?
Illusion of Consensus
Gazing at a Crystal Ball
About the Authors