Balancing needs of the coalition and the party - Hindustan Times
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Balancing needs of the coalition and the party

Jun 10, 2024 01:33 AM IST

Prime Minister Modi has the political experience to navigate the complexities of running a coalition government

Narendra Modi has taken the oath of office as prime minister (PM) of India for the third time. He is only the second PM in the country’s history, after Jawaharlal Nehru, to be chosen for a third term. However, unlike in his previous two terms, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not hold even a simple majority this time. He heads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) only because the alliance has secured the most seats in the Lok Sabha. The pressing question now is whether this change will hinder his working style and future plans.

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, center, with council of ministers during a swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, June 9, 2024. Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister for a third straight term on Sunday, extending his leadership for another five years after a bruising electoral setback that forced him to share power for the first time. Photographer: Prakash Singh/Bloomberg(Bloomberg) PREMIUM
Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, center, with council of ministers during a swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, India, on Sunday, June 9, 2024. Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister for a third straight term on Sunday, extending his leadership for another five years after a bruising electoral setback that forced him to share power for the first time. Photographer: Prakash Singh/Bloomberg(Bloomberg)

Before answering the question, consider this: While releasing the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) manifesto in Amaravati, the party’s leader Chandrababu Naidu said: “We will preserve the 4% reservations for Muslims and provide 5,000 in financial assistance every month for mosque maintenance in the state.” Naidu has offered women in Andhra Pradesh a monthly allowance of 1,500, free bus travel, and 3,000 a month for the unemployed. The Andhra Pradesh government will need a large sum to implement these recommendations, which it cannot raise on its own.

According to the Reserve Bank of India, Andhra Pradesh is one of the most indebted states. Despite this, Naidu intends to radically transform the state’s capital, Amaravati. It will require a separate investment of 3.5 trillion. During Modi’s first term, Naidu had clashed with the Centre over such issues. Today, when the TDP is the NDA’s largest partner with 16 seats, we should remember that Naidu is renowned for his bargaining skills.

The NDA’s second largest partner is the Janata Dal (U). Nitish Kumar has defied the NDA twice over the last 10 years. In 2013, he openly opposed Modi’s candidature for prime ministership. Like Naidu, he, too, seeks special status for his state. Besides, his views on matters such as the Uniform Civil Code and the Agniveer scheme diverge from the BJP’s declared stand.

There is one other thing: Almost all the current allies of the BJP, including the TDP, were part of the United Progressive Alliance (now the INDIA bloc) one way or the other. Also, Kumar has been described as an ideal candidate for prime ministership from time to time by his party.

Is this a good or bad omen?

The Oppositions in states continue to remind these regional leaders of their pledges. In Bihar, in response to Nitish Kumar’s decision to go with NDA, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav said: “Chacha is in the role of kingmaker, so now he should get special status for the state and be able to get a caste census conducted across the country.” Be it Naidu or Nitish, Chirag Paswan or Ajit Pawar, Eknath Shinde or Jayant Chaudhary, everyone has regional demands. Modi cannot ignore these. Power in politics entails obligations. Every political leader must balance the interests of her/his constituents with the benefits of power. For this, all constituent parties will strive to secure the highest number of posts and key departments in the council of ministers.

How will Modi and his associates handle this?

The answer is not particularly difficult. Take a look at Modi’s career. He rose to his current heights through hard work. Before he became chief minister (CM) of Gujarat in 2001, Modi had worked for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and then BJP in various capacities. He played a significant role in establishing the BJP in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

People who understand politics know the basic distinction between government and organisation. When someone is in government, the baton of power is in their hands. In an organisation, it is important to keep everyone united without the power of government. Modi has done both really well. This time, his party has clearly stumbled, but it would be premature to attribute this to the PM’s personal failure.

Another attribute that distinguishes Modi from his predecessors is his extensive experience as a CM. The BJP had stints in office and in the Opposition (at the Centre) when Modi was Gujarat CM. Regardless of the political landscape, Modi consistently delivered exceptional results for Gujarat. His ability to navigate these complexities demonstrates his adeptness at walking a tightrope in the political arena.

In keeping with the Indian tradition of wishing everyone good luck in their new endeavours, let us extend our congratulations to the entire cabinet of Modi’s third government and believe they will meet the expectations of the voters. The NDA will, hopefully, work responsibly over the next five years. History is watching them.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal

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