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Return to Coalition Politics in India: Navigating New Challenge

The BJP and its allies must navigate a more complex political landscape, requiring effective governance through consultation and cooperation
return to coalition politics in india  navigating new challenge

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have emerged victorious in the national election but have lost their parliamentary majority in the eighteenth Lok Sabha 2024 elections. On Sunday evening, Modi and his BJP colleagues will take the oath to form the government with the support of coalition partners for the third time running.


Despite being the largest political group with 240 parliamentary members out of 543 constituencies, the BJP now relies on allies to achieve the required majority of 272 seats. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the BJP, has approximately 293 seats, which is considered a comfortable majority.


The NDA coalition includes two major regional partners with a minimum strength of 15 and 12 MPs each, along with other smaller parties who all have become not only active but important players in the coalition government.


Shifting Dynamics in Governance


The coalition government marks a departure from the BJP’s previous two terms, where coalition partners earlier had little influence on decision-making. Now, Prime Minister Modi will need to adopt a more consultative and deliberative approach, reflecting the reduced dominance of a single political party. All coalition members will participate in decision-making, which may complicate reaching consensus but ensures a broader representation of interests.


The principle of Prime Ministerial leadership in a parliamentary system will be curtailed as Modi must consult coalition partners before major decisions. This shift could challenge the BJP, which campaigned on its agenda and future reforms, often sidelining alliance issues. The BJP’s feeling of low despite its electoral victory contrasts with the INDIA alliance’s sense of triumph, having fought on coalition lines.


To manage the coalition effectively, the government may create a Steering Committee or Coordination Committee, acting as a ‘Super-Cabinet’ and potentially undermining the traditional cabinet’s role. Struggles for ministerial portfolios among partners are expected, as smaller constituents play a ‘king-maker’ role, often demanding more than their parliamentary strength justifies.


Leaders of regional parties will prioritise regional over national interests, pressuring the central executive to align with their demands. This dynamic could lead to blame games and a lack of accountability for administrative failures, if it happens, with coalition members avoiding collective and individual responsibilities.

The dependency on allies makes the government weak if partners feel neglected. The BJP, once all-powerful, now relies on coalition support, a stark contrast to its 2014 and 2019 terms.

On a positive note, coalition governments in a highly diverse country like India can be more representative of the electorate’s popular opinion. While sometimes contentious, coalition politics can lead to consensus-based governance, strengthening the federal fabric of the Indian political system by being more sensitive and responsive to regional demands.

Historical Context and Future Implications

India’s history of coalition governments is marked by both good and bad experiences, chaos and significant economic reforms, particularly in the early 1990s and 2000s. Many political analysts see the current situation as a personal disappointment to Modi, who has previously secured majorities in elections as both Gujarat’s chief minister and India’s prime minister. However, some argue that it is too early to judge Modi’s handling of this new political landscape. As a key listener, full of experience and a consultative leader, Modi’s approach will be crucial in maintaining coalition harmony.

The election results also signify a revival for the Congress Party-led INDIA opposition alliance, defying earlier predictions of decline. This resurgence, bolstered by positive campaigns and Rahul Gandhi’s yatras, challenges the BJP’s dominance.

Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has interpreted the recent election results as a mandate against the government, attributing the improved performance to the positive campaign led by the INDIA bloc and Rahul Gandhi’s two yatras. Gandhi, who secured victories in two constituencies, is yet to decide which Lok Sabha seat he will retain. However, the INDIA alliance equally remains vulnerable to the complexities of coalition politics. There’s always uncertainty about which political partner may defy the alliance, take a different course, or be wooed by the ruling coalition, especially in the upcoming state elections. The opposition’s position is also precarious, as veteran political parties within the alliance struggle for their existence amidst the threat of defections.

Navigating New Political Realities

The recent election results do not necessarily signal the start of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political decline. Modi, who took office in 2014 under global scrutiny for his alleged links to the 2002 Gujarat riots, has since rehabilitated his image, strengthened international ties, and became one of India’s most popular leaders in decades.

However, Modi now faces one of his biggest political tests: forming a coalition government and relying on partners for the first time. This new political landscape will be crucial in determining his future trajectory. With less political space and a smaller mandate, implementing his domestic agenda will be significantly more challenging. Even pursuing economic reforms, which proved difficult with a larger mandate, will be a tall order in this coalition setup.

Modi’s success in achieving domestic policy goals will likely hinge on a more conciliatory political approach. While foreign policy should remain relatively unaffected, as goals like strengthening India’s global power are unlikely to face resistance from coalition partners.

Despite being fractious and burdened with legal challenges, the opposition has scored its biggest political achievement in a decade. If it can maintain this momentum from the benches, Modi’s third term could prove more challenging than his first two. While the odds favour Modi and the BJP, still massively popular, the dynamics of leading a coalition government and facing a stronger opposition will keep Modi more frequently on the back foot.

In elections like this, interpreting the results and their policy implications is challenging for both the ruling party and the opposition. The past social infrastructure that has taken root under the Modi government’s tenure over the last ten years will not disappear easily and may persist autonomously. The key question now is whether the new political configuration will allow for the kind of continuity of the BJP’s social infrastructure model that exists presently in the society or whether a new consensus and policy will be needed for national regeneration.

This remains uncertain. However, one thing is sure: greater political competition and activities will be visible in the coming months. The emergence of a coalition government signifies a new chapter in Indian democracy. While it brings challenges, it also offers an opportunity for more inclusive and representative governance.

Economic Ramifications

The Indian stock market experienced a significant decline, and the rupee depreciated against the US dollar following the election results. As the government formation progresses, the markets are gradually stabilising. Analysts attribute the initial decline to concerns over the BJP’s lack of a clear majority and the potential concessions required to form a government. These concerns may persist for a few months, directly linked to the stable functioning of the new government. All eyes will be on the alliance partners and their strengths. However, India’s infrastructure and economic growth are expected to continue steadily.


The return to coalition politics in India brings both challenges and opportunities. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ability to adapt to this new political reality will be crucial for his continued success. The BJP and its allies must navigate a more complex political landscape, requiring effective governance through consultation and cooperation. While coalition dynamics may slow decision-making, they also promise a more inclusive and representative government, reflecting India’s diverse social fabric.

Conversely, the Congress and its allies are likely to intensify their grassroots efforts, increasing their presence and influence among the lower and middle classes through various partners. This indicates that preparations for the 2029 elections have already begun, and coalition politics are here to stay.

As India embarks on this new political journey, the need for strategic leadership and collaborative governance has never been more critical. History has shown that differences of opinion among coalition members can lead to government collapse, a risk that Modi will have to navigate carefully. His leadership and adaptability will be tested like never before, as he strives to maintain stability and push forward with the nation’s development goals. If he passes the test, he will become unstoppable.

In this evolving political scenario, both the ruling coalition and the opposition must be vigilant and strategic, ensuring that their partnerships remain strong and effective. The future of India’s governance depends on the ability of these coalitions to work together, representing the diverse interests and aspirations of the Indian populace.

Author is National Editor,

Greater Kashmir.