Congress weds BJP?

Nationalist Congress Party leader and former speaker of the Lok Sabha P.A. Sangma has suggested a BJP-Congress coalition. In a recent interview to the Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24x7's 'Walk the Talk', he argued that there was not much difference between the economic and foreign policies of these two parties and that their coming together could make India a "different country". Is this just a provocative idea? Has its time ever come, in other countries and other contexts? Can it work in India? Kailash K.K. takes on the questions about grand coalitions

What are grand coalitions?

A coalition government emerges when no single party is able to form a government on its own. It is usually a multi-party government in which several parties combine forces in different ways to achieve both common and individual goals. The grand coalition is a particular type of coalition that has almost the entire spectrum of parties represented in government. The term 'grand' that qualifies 'coalition' emphasises magnitude. These could be all-party coalitions or they could be a coalition of two or more of the largest but ideologically competing parties/alliances.

Are there different types of grand coalitions?

Coalition studies make a distinction between three types of grand coalitions. The first type is when grand coalitions are power sharing devices. The governing coalition includes representatives from all major segments of a highly divided society, in terms of ethnic, linguistic or religious groups. Grand coalitions are therefore conflict avoidance and/or regulation devices meant to prevent alienation, encourage cooperation and promote governmental legitimacy. They are meant to be an alternative to the purely majoritarian type of government where some minority groups could be permanently excluded from power. Lebanon, the Netherlands and Switzerland are examples of some countries that have had this particular variety of grand coalitions.

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