The experience has not been encouraging. Coalition governments that have been around since the 1990s have not really brought the representative democracy or stability that people had hoped for. The Congress’ waning presence in different states and the BJP failing to become a pan-Indian party have given regional parties more political space in New Delhi. Pulled in opposite directions by coalition partners, the principal party — either the Congress or the BJP — has not been able to live up to the expectations of the people. In this scenario, it would be prudent for the two national parties to not enter into pre-poll alliances with regional parties and rather contest the maximum number of seats in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
In that vein, it is not good news that the BJP might strike an alliance with the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, much against the will of the local party unit. Pre-poll alliances with regional heavyweights are safer bets for the national parties. But by doing so they are reducing their chances of reaching the half-way mark of 272 seats on their own. They are also opening the field for regional parties to have a greater clout at the Centre in a coalition government. This clout or bargaining power often works against the stability of a government.
A sign of this is seen in KT Rama Rao’s statement that his party, the TRS, was under “no compulsion to either merge or ink a pre-poll pact with the Congress” and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan aligning with the BJP but keeping his ‘options open’. Regional parties seldom view issues through the prism of national importance, as was seen when TMC leader Mamata Banerjee scuttled the Teesta water-sharing agreement and when the DMK walked out of the UPA over the Lankan Tamil issue.
If there is one lesson that can be learnt from the UPA 1 and UPA 2 governments, it is that the greater the presence of regional parties in a coalition at the Centre, the greater the chances of a gridlocked, dysfunctional government.