(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Chapter: 14 (Significant Issues in Individual Administration) – Administration under Coalition Government (Paper -2)

Paper – 2
Chapter: 14 (Significant Issues in Individual Administration)

Administration under Coalition Government

A coalition government, or coalition cabinet, is a cabinet of
a parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate. The usual reason
given for this arrangement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in
the parliament. A coalition government might also be created in a time of
national difficulty or crisis, for example during wartime, to give a government
the high degree of perceived political legitimacy it desires whilst also playing
a role in diminishing internal political strife. In such times, parties have
formed all-party coalitions (national unity governments, grand coalitions). If a
coalition collapses a confidence vote is held or a motion of no confidence is
To deal with a situation in which no clear majorities appear through general
elections, parties either from coalition cabinets, supported by a parliamentary
majority, or minority cabinets which may consist of one or more parties.
Cabinets based on a coalition with majority in a Parluament, idleally, are more
stable and long-lived than minority cabinets. While the former are prone to
internal struggles, they have less reason to fear votes of non-confidence.
Majority governments based on a single party-are typically even more stable, as
long as their majority can be maintained.
The reality of the party-system determines whether the one-party or coalition
government, minority or majority governance does emerge in a country. The real
political limits for the government and the Prime Minister are first set by the
own party, or by the coalition partner, not by the opposition. The relations
between the government and the opposition are regulated in the Parliamentary
House Rules, but the operation of the coalition, is not regulated by any legal
staff, while the consequences of tensions and conflicts in the coalition usually
have impacts on the work of the government.

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An important political experience is that in one-party
government the power is concentrated in the hands of the Prime Minister, but in
a coalition the power is more shared among the partners. It is not necessarily
true that the coalition is inherently weakening the political efficiency of the
government. A one-party government may have troubles because of the competition
of the leading politicians or factions in the government party. Some authors
state that the coalition reconciliation, the complicated organizational and
personal relations in the coalition, the slower Decision-making threatens the
effectiveness of the governance. It is true that the one-party government seems
to be more unified and has less slowing down obstacles. A coalition government
requires more considerations, compromises and mixed program, but it does not
necessarily mean lower political effectiveness and acceptance in the society. On
the contrary, the coalition makes possible more flexibility in following the
changes in the support of the parties between the elections, and also the
coalition may force ripen corrections in the government policies.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Coalition governments

Coalition government leads to more consensus-based politics,
in that a government comprising differing parties (often based on different
ideologies) would need to concur in regard to governmental policy. Another
stated advantage is that a coalition government better reflects the popular
opinion of the electorate within a country.

Those who disapprove of coalition governments believe that
such governments have a tendency to be fractious and prone to disharmony. This
is because coalitions would necessarily include different parties with differing
beliefs and who, therefore, may not always: agree on the coned path for
governmental policy. Sometimes the results of an election are such that the
coalitions which are mathematically most probable an: ideologically gically in
casible, such as in Flanders Of Northern lreland. A second difficulty might be
the agility of minor parties to play “Kingmaker” and particularly, in close
elections, gain tar more fix their support than their mime would other indicate
Coalition government have also been criticized of sustainiug a consensus On
issue when disagreement and the consequent discussion would he more fruitful. To
forge a consensus, the leaders of ruling coalition parties can agree to silence
lieu disagreements on an issue to unify the coalition against the opposition.
The coalition partners, it they control the parliamentary Majority cut collude
to make the parliamentary discussion on the issue irrelevant by consistently
disregarding the arguments of the opposition and voting against the opposition’s
propposals – even if there is disagreement within the ruling parties about the

Powerful pieties can also act in an oligarchic way to form an
unholy alliance to stifle the grow tit of emerging parties. Of course, such an
eventt is rare in coalition governments when compared to two-party systems,
which typically exists because of stifling the growth of emerging parties, often
through discriminatory ballot access regulations and plurality voting systems,

A single, more powerful, party can shape the policies of the
coalition disproportionately. Smaller or less powerful parties can be
intimidated to not openly disagree. In order to maintain the coalition, they
will have to vote against the party’s platform in the parliament. If they do
not, the party has to leave -the government and loses executive power.

Coalition Making

The basis of a coalition is an agreement about the common
responsibilities in the governance. This is not only a single act. This is a
wish of permanent collaboration. In order to maintaining the collaboration, the
partners should establish a disciplined mechanism for the Decision-making and
the conflict resolution. Principally, the concept of the coalition government
may be one of the next two: “Common governance” – is based on the common
Decision-making process. “Joint governance” – is based on the distribution of
power. This type of the coalition is based on a minimal community of the
partners. The governments’ party factions vote together for the budget and the
tax-laws, otherwise they follow their own principles in controlling their policy

One ministry is controlled by only one single party in this
coalition model. The distribution and the separation of the policy fields among
the partners makes the control difficult for the Prime Minister over the
portfolios belonging to the coalition partner. Critical question is the policy
coordination and the coherence of the governance, despite the junior partner has
no chance to revise the decisions of the Prime Minister – who is representing
the senior party.

  1. The existence of a Coalition Government diminishes the
    political position of Parliament and of the Government. The political
    decision making process shifts from clear procedures to rather informal
    conversations. In addition, one of the most important principles of a modern
    Constitution, namely the separation of powers, is circumvented under a
    Coalition Government.

  2. Under a Coalition Government the political position of
    the party leaders is strengthened, whereas the position of the Party
    Organisations is weakened. Only a few members of the political parties
    involved are members of the Coalition Committees, which are established by
    the Coalition Agreements, with the task to solving problems, difficulties or
    disputes between the Coalition Partners.

  3. The sittings of the Coalition Committee are not public.
    Negotiations in the Committee are, therefore, regarded as a form of secret
    diplomacy, whereas the principle of democracy demands transparency. The
    ordinary members of the political parties do not participate in resolving
    the disputes.

  4. The existence of a Coalition Government requires the
    politics of compromises. The result of those compromises does not strengthen
    the Government in power. None of the partners of a Coalition Government is
    able to push through its own ideas without consent of the Coalition partner.

  5. Due to the compromises, the political responsibility of
    the Coalition Partners is blurred. Each Coalition partner may say that the
    other Partner is the brake on the Coalition Government, hindering a good
    policy to be done by the Government.

Coalition Bargain

The crucial stake of the coalition bargain is the
distribution of the government position among the partners. The numerical
balance is important, but not exclusive objective. (Numerical balance suggests
that the proportion of the government positions reflects the proportion of the
Parliamentary mandates the parties may prefer certain portfolios because of
special reasons. The tactics of the senior coalition party in the bargain has
usually had the next main points:

  • Not offering those positions to the partner which are
    vital for the efficient control over the main resources of the power.

  • Offering the most conflictual-policy fields to the

  • Offering such ministry to the partner, which is closely
    depending on the state budget.

  • Offering also such ministry which is very desired by the

Coalition Agreement

Politicians and political analysts are usually agreed on that
a written coalition agreement is useful and valuable thing. The mutual trust
among the partners is much more important than any formal agreement. Moreover,
the written agreement can create even more tensions between the partners if they
want to follow closely the written norms. In sum, those elements of the
coalition agreement concern the government personnel affairs and the
institutional settings are very important. But the coalition agreement is
political document, and any interference with the Constitution is not

Coalition and Policy Process

Political scientists raised the next questions in connection
with the impact of the coalition on the governance.

  • How the coalition influences the work of the government?

  • Whether the coalition is stabilizing or destabilizing the

  • Is the coalition improving the efficiency of the

  • Is the transparency and accountability increasing or not
    in the coalition government?

The coalition government has wider background than a
one-party government. If the coalition can use this advantage, the effectiveness
may increase. Also the professional interests and supporters of the coalition
parties are different, what can be useful in making the policies on more
sensitive way. The key question is that how the coalition partners can enrich
the policy reconciliation process with mobilizing their special resources?


Indian political System though based on Westminster Model was
modified there are 2 main characters of Westminster Model.

– Parliamentary System (2 tier of Administration system)
– Multi party system

  • As far a government & legislation is concerned for a very
    long time we had one party dominance system & then.

Jumped straight to multi party system and not tow party

Coalition era

Post 1989 idea of coalition largely we refer to post 1989 but
has been there prior to that as well
3 main phases:

  1. 1967
    – For first time half of states become non Congress
    – Primarily coalition government led by Ram Manohar Lohia & his ‘Catch all’
    – diverse political colour limited political Stability 1969 – congress
    regained power

  2. 1977: At State government level many non Congress
    coalition governments sprang up
    Eg. Kerala, WB & Tripura
    – even at Centre Janata party come to power which was also a coalition led
    by Jai. Prakash Narain
    – While at Central government level, it was short lived it continued at
    State level with similar Political colour

  3. 1989 onwards became a Permanent feature
    – number of political Parties came together & no single party could form
    government thus Coalition politics is here to stay
    – 1989 onwards is referred to as Coalition Era.


  1. Impact increasing weakening of Parliamentary Power @
    Central & state level Political Interest lies in state not nation using
    coalition to maximise State interest – Weakening of Central Executive &
    legislative power led to Judicial activism hence.

  2. has also weakened capacity of Central Governments to take
    care of legitimate interest of minority or ethnic groups.
    – Earlier it had considerable leverage
    – States fall prey to majoritarian interest

  3. repeated instability:
    1989 onward – 7 elections till 2010 elections
    – Very fast Indian polity has matured & accommodated well

  4. Policy failures or entropy divergent views on many issues

  5. unholy nexus of All India Services losing all India
    character. With coalition these are becoming more & more State services
    loyalty lies more with State.


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