Compulsions of a coalition council - Hindustan Times
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Compulsions of a coalition council

ByHT Editorial
Jun 10, 2024 01:04 AM IST

The BJP will need to take the lead in being more consultative and accommodative to ensure smooth governance

After a decade of dominance in Parliament and government, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi starts his third consecutive term in office as the head of a coalition government. On late Sunday evening, 72 ministers (including the PM) were sworn in, with most of the heavyweights from the previous government and representatives of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – barring the NCP (Ajit Pawar)– finding a place in the Modi 3.0 government. The induction of former Tamil Nadu unit chief L Murugan, who lost the election, and Suresh Gopi, the party’s first Lok Sabha MP from Kerala, into the ministry, indicates the BJP’s intent to expand its footprint in two states that remain lukewarm to the party’s overtures. The ministry could be expanded later if the PM wishes to address any possible regional or social underrepresentation as well as shortage of expertise. In his second term, PM Modi had inducted specialists – S Jaishankar, Mansukh Mandaviya, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Ashwini Vaishnaw among others – to improve governance.

New Delhi: President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers at the swearing-in ceremony of new Union government, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, Sunday, June 9, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI06_10_2024_000015B)(PTI) PREMIUM
New Delhi: President Droupadi Murmu and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other ministers at the swearing-in ceremony of new Union government, at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, Sunday, June 9, 2024. (PTI Photo)(PTI06_10_2024_000015B)(PTI)

That all of them find space in his third government, and the allies have been given only 11 slots in the council of ministers perhaps suggests that the BJP has had its way; 39 of the council have been Union ministers before; and 43 have served at least three terms in Parliament.

That said, it is important to recognise that the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with 16 MPs and the JD(U) with 12 MPs will be the twin pillars on which the third NDA government will rest. This arrangement where the BJP with 240 seats is dependent on at least 15 allies to stay in office, may force the party to recalibrate its priorities. The BJP will have to acknowledge that it is an NDA government and recognise that governance needs to be a wider consultative process which may call for both negotiation and accommodation. This could cut both ways -- the compulsions of coalition politics can work as a mechanism for checks and balances in government, but it could also skew policies. It is a given that some of the BJP’s more contentious agendas will have to wait – the TDP has already expressed its reservations about repealing the Muslim quota in some states, promised by the BJP during the poll campaign, and the Uniform Civil Code – just as some existing policies may now need to be tweaked; the JD(U), for instance, has already expressed concerns about the Agnipath Scheme.

The challenge for the PM is to separate genuine policy concerns from pressure tactics and play accordingly. Here, Modi could borrow from the playbook of Atal Behari Vajpayee who managed the NDA with aplomb between 1999 and 2004. He did that by setting aside controversial agendas and crafting a governance agenda agreeable to allies. It will help if the NDA draws up a common minimum programme and appoints a convenor for floor management within the coalition to avoid friction among allies. Institutionalising the coalition management mechanism can help the government ride the growth momentum, and address crisis points such as unemployment and inflation, which influenced poll outcomes.

 

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