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During the Indian elections in 2024, the alliance NDA got 292 seats. That is a clear-cut majority to form the government. Then why is there confusion about whether NDA will form the government or not? And if not what is the significance and need of a pre-poll alliance? Could the same thing be achieved after the election by a post-poll alliance?

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The BJP did not get a majority. So Modi depends on partners in the NDA alliance for a majority.

There is no confusion about who will form a government. However the composition of that government is not clear. The allies of the BJP in parties like the TDP and JD(U) will want something in return for their continued support for BJP policies, and to have a seat in government. If those parties renege on their pre-poll promises, then there will be confusion!

There is no need of a pre-poll alliance, but it can help voters understand the effect of their vote (eg a vote for the JD(U) will increase the chance that Modi will remain in power.) A pre-poll alliance can also avoid the "spoilage" effect of several parties with similar policies opposing each other in the "first past the post" system. But it can reduce the choices for an individual voter. For example, if you want to vote for the BJP, but it has not chosen to stand in your constituency as a part of a pre-poll alliance.

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Then why is there confusion about whether NDA will form the government or not?

When a single party fails to get a majority in the Parliament, a coalition government composed of more than 1 party is inevitable. However, neither the Indian constitution, nor the Indian Parliament has legislated any laws governing a coalition government. During such a situation, what is followed is an unwritten convention of practice that has been defined by previous governments and Presidents.

Any pre-poll and post-poll alliances in a coalition government is based on mutually beneficial understanding between the parties / independent members, and there are no laws defining the formation of such alliances nor from preventing any party in the alliance to break-off from an alliance. This is unlike political parties whose member have more restriction in going against their party, as indian law allows a party to initiate disqualification proceedings against such members for not following the party diktat under certain circumstances.

For example, the Vajpayee government once thought it had sealed an understanding with other parties to get a majority in the Parliament and form a coalition government, but during the floor test, they lost by one vote because one non-BJP Member of Parliament changed his mind at the last moment. And there was nothing the Vajpayee government could do about it.

Sure, the Modi-lead NDA coalition has won 292 seats today. But there is no laws binding the non-BJP parties to support this BJP-lead coalition and form a government with them. They are free to opt-out of the alliance at any moment and form or join another political alliance. In fact, the JD(U) which is currently in the NDA, has left the NDA coalition many times, to join the opposition.

That is why, in coalition government in India, there is no guarantee that a pre-poll alliance will definitely form a government, nor is there any guarantee that even a post-poll alliance will survive its full term even if it manages to a form a government.

... what is the significance and need of a pre-poll alliance?

In India, where a winner of an election is the one who gets the most votes, a pre-poll alliance can help consolidate votes when there are many candidates in an election. For example, a BJP voter may not like to vote for a JD(U) or TDP candidate, but because both parties chose to be in a pre-poll alliance with BJP, a BJP voter might be more willing to transfer their vote to a candidate of either party (and vice versa). Similarly, forming the INDIA coalition ensured that parties in the coalition wouldn't fight each other but field only one candidate amongst themselves and prevent the fracture of votes that would have allowed their opposition to win.

However, as I pointed out, a member party of the NDA or INDIA coalition cannot be legally forced to stay in the coalition, and can leave it any time they want.

Could the same thing be achieved after the election by a post-poll alliance?

Since a pre-poll alliance is not legally unbreakable, the NDA or the INDIA coalition can definitely court the parties of the other coalition to try and poach them to their coalition, to get a majority and form a government - this would be a post-poll alliance. So yes, even if any of the NDA party member leaves the coalition, they can try to poach other parties (or members) from the INDIA coalition to survive. This has happened many times in Indian politics during the "coalition era".

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