Jun 14, 2024

Coalition Government: What is it and how does it affect the law?

India recently concluded its 18th General Elections and the BJP-led NDA alliance has formed the government. No single political party was able to secure a majority in the Parliament in this election. So, this government now comprises a coalition of different political parties. Although this is not the first time India has had a coalition government, one can expect the Parliament processes to function differently from the trends of the last decade. 

In this Weekly, we learn more about what coalition governments are and their likely effects on the process of law making 

Coalition Government

A coalition government is formed when multiple political parties collaborate to govern, often because no single party has achieved a clear majority in a legislative body. This type of government is built on alliances and compromises among the participating parties. Each party in the coalition might hold specific portfolios and have a degree of influence over government policy and decision-making. 

How are coalition governments formed?

The Lok Sabha elections are held to elect 543 members to the Lower House. To form a government, a party or coalition needs to secure a majority of at least 50%, which is 272 seats in the Lok Sabha. This ensures that they have enough support to pass legislation and govern effectively. If the party secures more than half of the seats in the Lok Sabha, it can form a government on its own. Achieving the majority allows the elected representatives to choose the Prime Minister and establish a stable governing administration.

In cases where no single party or coalition is able to secure a majority, a coalition government may be formed with the support of smaller parties. This ensures that a stable government is in place and that decisions can be made with the consensus of multiple parties. 

How have coalition governments functioned in the past? 

In terms of legislative processes, there is no difference between a coalition government or a single party government. However, coalition governments often experience a lot more political negotiations before arriving at a consensus on any issue. 

In the past, numerous important legislations were initiated by coalition governments. 

  • Removal of the Licence Permit system during PV Narasimha Rao’s government: In 1991, Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, who was also the Minister of Industries, initiated a policy of liberalisation in India. This policy aimed to reduce government intervention in the economy and promote market-based solutions to economic problems.
  • Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Law under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee- led NDA: The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Bill was introduced in the Parliament in 2000 to provide legal backing to the fiscal discipline to be institutionalized in the country. Subsequently, the FRBM Act was passed in the year 2003.

Electoral frauds after elections 

Usually, coalition governments are formed after the results are declared to account for negotiations between different political parties. However, if any of the candidates of any of the parties forming the coalition is accused of any electoral fraud, even after the results are declared, anyone can file a complaint against them and the police may initiate legal proceedings against them. If found guilty, they will be disqualified from retaining their seat in the Parliament. In such a case, the coalition government will have to go for by-elections for that particular constituency.  

What is electoral fraud and how do you report it?

Electoral fraud undermines the democratic process and is taken seriously, with offenders facing possible imprisonment. Forms of electoral fraud include:

  • Making false statements about a candidate’s character.
  • Offering incentives to influence voting behavior.
  • Interfering with postal votes.
  • Submitting false information on candidate nomination forms.
  • Registering to vote under false pretenses.
  • Influencing someone to vote against their will.
  • Impersonating another voter.

How to Report Electoral Fraud

  1. To the Police: Call 101 and ask for the Election Single Point of Contact (SPOC) who is trained in electoral law. Provide details and evidence, and be prepared to make a statement.
  2. To Crimestoppers: Report anonymously online or call 0800 555 111.
  3. ECI Portal: :https://voters.eci.gov.in/

Investigation Process

  • The SPOC will investigate the report, potentially working with the Electoral Registration Officer or Returning Officer and the Electoral Commission.
  • If necessary, the EC can advise on electoral law and ensure compliance.