Election 2019: Why Congress Might Regret Shunning AAP in Delhi


Election 2019: Why Congress Might Regret Shunning AAP in Delhi

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty


ince 1996, each government that has ruled India has been a coalition. Even now, talks of a united opposition have continuously done the rounds. Though a majority of regional leaders claim they intend to kick out the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, precious little has been done to cement alliances on the ground. The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have refused to shake Priyanka Gandhi’s hand in Uttar Pradesh, and now the Congress has done the same to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. Though in UP they might kiss and make up, with its decision to go it alone in Delhi, the Congress party seems to have shot itself in the foot. In refusing to ally with AAP, the Congress seemingly not only overestimates its prowess in a region where it doesn’t even have a toe inside the door, let alone a foot, but also undermines the benefits of a relatively low-risk, yet high-reward alliance with AAP.

Coalition politics, though it firmly took centre-stage only in 1996 with the formation of the United Front, had begun to play a role in the governance of India from as early as 1977 with the formation of the Janata Party. Though the prevailing wisdom behind these alliances is that of opportunism, academicians like Sanjay Ruparelia have argued that the alliances have benefited the country and the politics it practices. In his book Divided We Govern, he writes , “Ultimately, the vicissitudes of India’s coalition politics heightened political agency. In particular, it forced competing party leaders to exercise sound political judgment. They had to comprehend the possibilities and constraints of specific historical contexts, only partly shaped by their beliefs, desires and practices.” Basically, the absence of complete power can also lead to the exercise of sensitive power. Though India’s first three coalition governments never even completed their tenures – hence the hesitation – the last two decades have proved the model is unavoidable, and only makes sense.