Are coalition governments good for governance? There may be a philosophical answer to this question, referring to the inclusive nature of the interests represented by these. There may also be an empirical, even weary, answer. Coalition governments are politically convenient arrangements made in the interests of power that need not even demand similar ideological leanings in the participating groups. The chequered history of India’s coalition governments, particularly in the states — West Bengal is a startling exception, as to some extent is Kerala — shows that the crux is power, and not people’s welfare. In the bickering over loaves and fishes, the people come last.
As Jharkhand has shown repeatedly, and is in the process of showing again. The Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, so far in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party, has withdrawn its support from the government led by BJP’s Arjun Munda. Evidently, Mr Munda was supposed to have resigned from the chief minister’s post to give way to Shibu Soren’s son from the JMM halfway through the five-year tenure. That was supposed to be the understanding between the two coalition partners, each with 18 seats, when they first took office together in the Jharkhand assembly. With the halfway moment upon it, the BJP has declared there was no such understanding and the JMM has indignantly used its only weapon — withdrawal. But surely none of these acrobatics is meant to benefit the people? Rather, they seem to be the last thing on the squabbling politicians’ minds. They are all flying in droves to Delhi to seize the best deal going — presumably on the money of the people of a poor state. Mr Munda wants the assembly dissolved and new elections to follow. The governor has recommended Central rule for the time being. The BJP is warning against ‘horse-trading’ if the assembly is not dissolved now; it has to be asked whether its concern springs from ethics, or fear that the carpet will be swept from under its feet. Political ethics demands that serious efforts be made to keep the legislative assembly for the five years it has been sworn in for. Why should the people be forced to vote again, while development is put on hold, just because two political parties are fighting over power?