For the followers of Indian politics, the decision of political parties of diverse interests in Israel coming together to form a coalition government complete with a rotation of the Prime Minister rings a familiar bell albeit in a different way.
While coalition governments and sharing of power between parties remain a familiar practice in India for the past few decades, the promise of sharing of the top political post on a rotational basis occurred twice in the rough and tumble of state politics, once each in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir during the last three decades.
The arrangement to share power through a change of leadership at the end of a specific term has a mixed bag of results. There are instances when a political party preferred to play truant instead of handing over the seat of power when the time came; wrecked the coalition from within by joining hands with another party; and, a solitary example when parties honoured the pact to effect a smooth transfer of power.
The 1990s is seen heralding the era of coalitions both at the Central and States level, a phenomenon that continues in some form in the country, its intensity at the Centre came down.
Uttar Pradesh shows the way
Interestingly, at the height of the “Ram Lehar” in the early 1990s, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) joined hands ahead of the polls in 1993 to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from assuming power in Uttar Pradesh.
Riding the crest in the post-1992 developments at Ayodhya, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 177 seats in the then 425-strong Assembly but had to sit out as the pre-poll partners, SP and BSP together won one seat more.
With help from the Congress, Mulayam Singh Yadav became the Chief Minister in December 1993.
Yet, during the 18 months period, differences between Yadav’s and the BSP founder Kanshi Ram grew to the extent that the latter shook hands with the BJP and installed Mayawati as the Chief Minister in June 1995. The experiment lasted a little over four months.
In between, relations between the SP-BSP touched the nadir with the infamous Lucknow Guest House attack. Mayawati eventually filed a case alleging the role of the SP behind the episode. The animosity lingered for over two decades till 2019 Lok Sabha when Mayawati buried the past, agreed for a pre-poll pact with SP, withdrew the case only to regret the move last year.
Ironically, an agreement to switch sides and take the Chief Minister’s post in UP came in 1997 when the BSP struck a deal with the BJP. The pact included a change of guard after six months in office with the other partner taking the turn.
Mayawati held office for six months but rumblings started a few days after the tenure purportedly over disagreement on the continuation of the BJP speaker. The accord came unstuck with BSP withdrawing support and Kalyan Singh having to prove his majority separately.
Interestingly in the 1996 UP assembly polls, the BSP was in a pre-poll pact with the Congress. The former contested 300 seats and later 125 and the coalition partners just touched 100 seats. The United Front Government at the Centre with Mulayam Singh as a powerful Minister (Defence) flatly refused to back Mayawati as the Chief Minister.
J & K Model – success and partial success
In late 2002, the Peoples’ Democratic Party of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed formed a coalition government with the Congress agreeing to rotate Chief Minister’s post mid-way during the six-year tenure. Both parties honoured the pact and in November 2005, the Congress exercised its right with Ghulam Nabi Azad taking office for the remainder of the term.
The erstwhile state once again witnessed a coalition arrangement in March 2015 but this time, the PDP took the support of the BJP. The coming together of these two parties with vastly different pursuits surprised political pundits. Barring a four-month break following the death of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the agreement continued until June 2018 when BJP decided to part ways.
Experiment beyond the Vindhyas
Karnataka, which is in the news these days due to reverberations in the BS Yeddyurappa-led BJP Government, came up with a power-sharing arrangement in 2004 between the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular). Both contested the assembly polls separately but with results throwing up a hung House, the political opponents decided to smoke the peace pipe.
Having haggled for Chief Minister citing the J&K formula of number two partner in terms of strength in the assembly getting the post, the JD (S) relented and HD Kumaraswamy became Deputy to Narayan Dharam Singh between May 2004 and February 2006.
Sensing political instability and growing differences within the Congress and with its partner, the JD (S) struck a deal with the BJP and Kumaraswamy became the Chief Minister in February 2006 for a 21-month period.
In the 2018 assembly, Kumaraswamy once again took the top political post in the state with liberal help from the Congress. His 14-month government fell to the current BJP regime.
These instances reaffirm the solidity of the maxim that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interest.
—KV Prasad is a senior journalist and has earlier worked with The Hindu and The Tribune. The views expressed are personal.
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(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)