Mains Article

Preventing political coalitions of convenience [Mains Articles]

In a maha-twist in the Maharashtra saga, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) turned the tables on its political rivals with the help of a faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
By IT's Mains Articles Team
November 28, 2019


  • Context
  • What is Pre-poll alliance?
  • What is Post-poll alliance?
  • What is Hung parliament?
  • Role of the Governor in the government formation
  • What is Horse trading in elections?
  • Suggestions
  • Conclusion

Preventing political coalitions of convenience

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In recently held Maharashtra Legislative Assembly election, no political party was able to prove the majority in the assembly. This due to the fact that the two major parties – BJP and Shiv Sena fought the election in an alliance, but fell apart (and hence unable to prove majority) after the results were declared on the issue of who will be the chief minister.


After 15 days without stable having government, the President’s rule was imposed in Maharashtra following recommendation by the Governor. At the end, the coalition was made by the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena.

What is Pre-poll alliance?

  • An electoral alliance is an association of political parties or individuals that exists solely to stand in elections. They contest the elections together and then, form the Govt. together if they win the elections.


  • Each of the parties within the alliance has its own policies but chooses temporarily to put aside differences in favour of common goals to pool their voters’ support and get elected.
  • The partners in an electoral alliance usually do not run candidates against one another.

Arguments in favour of Pre-Poll Alliance (PPA)

  • A pre-poll understanding offers a common platform to the parties in order to attract the electorate on the basis of joint manifesto.
  • Well-crafted pre-poll alliances are more durable than post-election because they offer incentives for moderation between two or more parties who are better positioned to balance opposing issues and policy preferences.

Arguments against Pre-Poll Alliance

  • Coalition government are running well in European countries because the alliance of the parties is based on ideology. However, in developing countries like India, the coalition government has no common program, no uniformity of social arrangement and does not have any ideological base.

What is Post-poll alliance?

  • Post – Poll Alliance is one where two or more Political Parties come together into an understanding after the elections to form the Government together.


  • These parties had contested in elections as rivals or friendly parties. There will be no understanding between them before the elections.

Argument in favour of Post-poll alliance

  • With Post-poll alliance, every political party will think twice before criticizing other parties, as a party may need the support of its rival party, if no part gets majority, to win election.
  • If a political party loses election, it frequently blames on the tempering of EVMs (electronic voting machines). With such post alliance, this could come to an end.
  • PPAs leave the party whose ‘help’ is sought to bulk up and form a government vulnerable.
  • PPAs can be doorways for party MLAs to choose another party in case of No Confidence motion.

Argument against Post-poll alliance

  • If the two or more political parties are criticizing each other before elections, the collation of same parties after election to from government will decrease the trust of voters in those parties.
  • The election manifesto and the promises that a political party make in a rally before election has no significance if that party make collation with its rival having different set of agendas and principles.
  • If a winning political party/individual agreed to support an alliance without the approval of the electorate, it amounted to cheating of voters.

What is Hung parliament?

  • When no party or pre-poll alliance is able to secure a majority in the election, this leads to a hung Parliament.
  • The total number of seats in the Lok Sabha is 543. A party or coalition needs to win one seat above the 50% mark, or 272 seats, in order to form the government.
  • If it is unable to do so, the President may invite the leader of the single largest party/alliance in the House to try to secure the confidence of the House. In the alternative, the President may invite a combination of parties who, in his opinion, might be in a position to command a majority in the House.

Role of the Governor in the government formation

The Governor has to first invite the single largest party to form the government. However, the decision has to be an “informed one” and “on sound basis,” with a view to provide a stable government.

Constitutional provisions

  • Article 164 of the Constitution says “The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the Governor and the other ministers shall be selected by the Governor on the advice of the Chief Minister, and the ministers shall hold office during the tenure of the Governor.”
  • Article 164(2) of the Constitution says that the Council of Ministers must be jointly responsible to the House.

Sarkaria Commission Report

  • As per the Sarkaria Commission report (1983) which discusses the Role of Governor, if there is a single party having an absolute majority in the Assembly, the leader of the party should automatically be asked to become the Chief Minister.
  • If there is a pre-poll coalition or alliance, it should be treated as one political party and in this case such coalition gets a majority, the leader of such alliances is called by the Governor to form the government.

However, if there is no such party, the Governor should select a Chief Minister from among the following parties or group of parties by calling them in the order of preference indicated below:

  • The group of parties which had a pre-poll coalition of the largest number.
  • The largest single party staking a claim to form the government with the support of others, including ‘independents’.
  • A post-electoral coalition of parties, with all the partners in the coalition joining the Government.
  • A post-electoral alliance of parties, with some of the parties in the alliance forming a Government and the remaining parties, including “independents” supporting the Government from outside.

What is Horse trading in elections?


  • Horse trading refers to the buying and selling of horses. Due to the difficulties in evaluating the merits of a horse offered for sale, the sale of horses offered great opportunities for dishonesty, leading to use of the term horse trading to refer to complex political vote trading.
  • In 1967, an MLA named Gaya Lal changed his party thrice within a fortnight. This resulted in popular phrase ‘Aaya ram Gaya ram’.
  • In 1985, government passed Anti-Defection Law to prohibit such activities. However, under this law, it is allowed to switch parties if less than 2/3rd of the floor strength of a party decides to do so. Hence, the parties try to gather at least that many numbers. This kind of trading is called Horse Trading.


  • The cases of coalition need to be covered under the anti-defection laws under 10th Schedule of Indian constitution. Even the Law Commission of India, in its 170th report on ‘Reform of the electoral laws’ said that a ‘pre-election coalition should be treated as a ‘political party’ for the purposes of the anti-defection law.
  • Political parties and individual candidates should disclose a list of ‘probable post-poll alliances’ under a legal framework drafted by Election Commission. This might help the electorate to gauge the level of political commitment of the parties and candidates.


A political party functions on the strength of shared beliefs. Any freedom of its members to vote as they please independently of the political party’s declared policies will not only embarrass its public image and popularity but also undermine public confidence in it, which is its source of sustenance.

As noted by B.R. Ambedkar in his famous Constituent Assembly speech, ‘The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State. The factors on which the working of those organs of the state depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes.’


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