Modi’s Third Act Can He Write a Coalition Success Story News 18 11 Jun 2024 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Modi’s Third Act: Can He Write a Coalition Success Story News 18 11 Jun 2024

          Elections results are out. PM Modi has returned for a historic third term in office but this time with a reduced majority and as part of a coalition. The days when his party could push its own agenda are now over. India has had coalition governments before and these have survived complete tenures. Governments of Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh are examples.

Simultaneously, coalitions impose roadblocks on what governments seek to implement based on their individual party’s interests. With a stronger opposition to keep a check, the government would need to tread carefully. It can no longer afford to be brash and push through bills and decisions as it had done in its earlier two tenures.

It would need to garner some quantum of support also from members of the opposition, most of whom do not see eye-to-eye on multiple issues, in addition to its allies. This would impose political costs, none of which are insurmountable.

          The two major allies of the government are state political parties, which would be seeking benefits for their state, thereby ensuring their return to power in future elections. Hence, their interest would remain largely on domestic issues.

There has been no mention of a ‘common minimum program’ possibly because the coalition is not as diverse as earlier ones. However, there would be ‘no go areas’ for the government even in domestic policies, especially where impact could be regional. Further, the government does not possess the majority to push through many of the bills it had proposed during electioneering.

The coalition does not involve pro-China or pro-Sri Lankan Tamil parties, as in earlier Congress led coalitions, which led to a subdued approach in developing Indo-US ties. It also impacted managing relations with China and Sri Lanka. The Manmohan Singh government’s foreign policies were influenced by its coalition partners through most of its tenure. It was threat of resignation by Manmohan Singh as PM, which led to the coalition agreeing to the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Current alliance partners would leave the government free to determine its approach towards foreign policy including engagement with multinational and multilateral organizations. They would back the government in its endeavour to project India more firmly on the global stage. India’s leadership of the global south as also its alliance with the west would continue as before. There may be some discussions on India’s stand in ongoing conflicts, especially where particular communities are involved, as these could have an internal political impact.

On defence, the new government will need to remain alert. Any negative incident on the border could be embarrassing as a strong opposition and possibly even its allies will attempt to exploit the situation. Investment in enhancing capabilities to challenge India’s adversaries as also increasing self-reliance on domestic industries will continue sans interference. There is unlikely to be any objections towards creating theatre commands, which would see the light of day in a short time. Nor would there be any interference on senior military appointments.

What could come up for discussion would be locations of new industries and defence industrial corridors. Andhra would possibly become a future hub for defence. However, the Agnipath scheme, exploited by the opposition during electioneering and a possible cause of loss of seats for the BJP across north India, will come under fire.

It is already being questioned by the JD (U) as also the President has been approached by Rahul Gandhi on the subject. While the scheme may continue, there would be tweaking based on the study currently being undertaken by the armed forces.  

The scheme had shortfalls even when it was introduced. Voices were raised against it however the government was adamant. Shortcomings in the scheme were exploited during elections. Reversing it completely would project the BJP and PM in poor light and is unlikely, however amending it by enhancing retention levels as also overcoming identified shortcomings is possible. This is possibly the best opportunity for the armed forces to push through reforms they seek in the scheme.

On the economic front, as long as the economy keeps improving there could be little objection by coalition partners. India is today the world’s fifth largest economy heading to be the third in the near future. It also has the globe’s largest population, for whom increasing employment avenues are essential. The national economic policy as also curbing inflation may come up for internal debate. The opposition will not lose an opportunity to embarrass the government on the economic front, especially when inflation rises.

There would be demands for location of new industries in states of alliance partners to boost employment and revenue. Global industries setting up shop in India may now be guided more by political constraints, rather than economic. This will imply that states currently garnering maximum investments would witness a drop to meet demands of allies.

Most important will be knowledge and dedication of ministers heading critical ministries. The nation is moving high in global circuits, bargaining ‘free trade agreements,’ championing the cause of the global south, as also India is a player which cannot be ignored on account of its economic and military power. Nations are rushing to partner India in different spheres.

Hence the government needs experts to ensure India gains at each stage. Therefore, critical ministries should never be allocated on political constraints but knowledge and expertise.

Attempts to break the ruling alliance will be a continuous process, compelling the BJP leadership to avoid taking steps which could threaten its existence.  Simultaneously, unity amongst the opposition is unlikely to last long. There are already signs of differences. Divisions would arise which will be exploited by the ruling coalition. Both sides will need to work to keep their flock together.

Next set of elections are some months away. Strategies for winning will soon be under discussion. After all, state assemblies nominate members for the Rajya Sabha. The game of consolidating power as also planning for upsets has just begun.      

Finally, the new government has taken root. As compared to its previous two tenures, this time it will be closely monitored and every flaw or shortcoming, questioned and exposed. This will enhance India’s democratic credentials and eliminate accusations of ‘electoral autocracy,’ which has plagued India since 2018.

 

 

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