From National Front to NDA and UPA: A Glimpse into Indian Coalition Politics

Image source: India TV Indian coalition politics gained momentum after the Indira Gandhi era.

India vs NDA: The nature of Indian politics has changed drastically in the last few decades with the waning dominance of the Congress over Indian politics. The end of the Indira Gandhi era was the real beginning of coalition politics. The absence of a charismatic and mass leader like him created a void in politics which was filled by a conglomeration of many like-minded parties. From independence till the Indira era, Indian politics was all about one party – the Congress. However, the split of the Congress into two parts – the Indian National Congress (Organization) led by the Syndicate and the Indian National Congress (R) led by Indira Gandhi in 1969 formed the basis for the birth of coalition politics. Since then, there has been a fundamental change in Indian politics. Now politics in the country, especially at the Centre, cannot be imagined without alliances.

On Tuesday, we all saw how the two major national parties – the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress – were desperate to show their might by including the maximum number of parties in their ranks – the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) and the newly formed India (Indian National Development Inclusive). alliance, earlier it was UPA- United Progressive Alliance). The claims and counter-claims of having a large number of parties show the importance of coalitions in today’s politics. The politics of coalition started in 1969 and later strengthened after emergency and 90s and 2000s were the best time of coalition and they were active in Indian politics. But, it is debatable whether coalition politics is good or bad for Indian democracy. Ideally, it seems to be morally right to take everyone on board, but on many occasions we have seen withdrawal of support leading to the collapse of the government. The first NDA government fell in 1999 by a single vote in the Lok Sabha. But this does not mean that one party dominance helps democracy. India saw the Emergency called by the Indira government in 1975.

Here is the list of alliances in India

‘Grand Alliance’
The first major coalition in India was the ‘Mahagathbandhan’ in 1971—a coalition led by the Congress (O), the Samyukta Socialist Party and the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. These three parties came together to oppose the Congress (R) led by Indira Gandhi, but failed to make an impact as Gandhi’s party won the general elections in 1971.

national front
The Janata Dal factions formed the National Front (NF) in 1989 under the leadership of NT Rama Rao and VP Singh. Rao was the president of the front and Singh was its convener. Later, Singh became the Prime Minister after being elected as the leader of the coalition and was later succeeded by Chandra Shekhar. The front broke up before the 1996 Lok Sabha elections following a split in the regional party – the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

United front
The United Front, a coalition of 13 political parties, formed two governments between 1996 and 1998. Governments were headed by two prime ministers—HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral of the Janata Dal. TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu was the convenor of the United Front. In 1998, the coalition broke up following the resignation of N Chandrababu Naidu as the convenor of the coalition.

National Democratic Alliance
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), formed in 1998, was a real success story of coalition politics. Under the charismatic leadership of leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee and later Narendra Modi, the coalition formed governments five times with initial setbacks. The first NDA government lasted only 13 days as Vajpayee failed to get the majority numbers. The fortunes of the second NDA government were also not so bright as it lasted only for 13 months from 1998 to 1999. The BJP-led NDA won a majority in the 1999 general elections, and Vajpayee served a full term from 1999 to 2004. Vajpayee, the first president of the NDA, served as prime minister every time after the alliance’s victory until 2004. After Vajpayee, Advani was the face of the coalition. The foray of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah into national politics proved to be a miracle for the NDA as the alliance has seen unprecedented gains since 2014. The largest ally-BJP saw a historic success in 2014 by securing a single-handed majority-282 seats (NDA-336 seats). In 2019 NDA secured 353 seats (BJP-303 seats). At present, NDA has 30 allies.

UPA: under the Congress-led UPA Sonia GandhiIts leadership defeated Vajpayee’s NDA in 2004. It was a surprise victory for the UPA as Vajpayee dominated the political space in the country in those days. The UPA, formed in 2004, retained power in 2009 by defeating the NDA again. Sonia Gandhi is its president since its inception. Congress leader Manmohan Singh served as prime minister for the coalition.

India: The Indian National Development Inclusive Alliance is a nascent alliance. Almost all the members of the UPA are part of the alliance. The Congress-led India decided to fight the NDA in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2024.

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