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What's in a name - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
March 7, 1998

Title: What's in a name
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 7, 1998

The concept of working majority may be alien to the Constitution
but it does suggest a solution to the present political deadlock
at the Centre. To obtain a simple majority, the BJP needs the
support of about 20 more MPs. Half the party's problem is over
if the 12-member Telugu Desam Party decides to support its claim
to form a government. As TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief
Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu heads the United Front and he has
always been perceived as a cementing force in the heterogeneous
Front, it is indeed difficult for him to join hands with the BJP.
He cannot also be oblivious to the challenge the BJP poses on his
home turf where it secured 24 per cent of the popular vote, whose
reflection in the next Assembly election can upset his hopes of
returning to power. Needless to say, the TDP is under no
compulsion to support either the BJP or the Congress to form a
government. But to keep quidistance' means to spoil the chances
of a government from within the new House. That would be too
harsh a punishment for the voters who have in their wisdom left
it to the MPs to adapt themselves to a hung Parliament. It is
against this backdrop that the relevance of the concept of
working majority assumes significance.

Once the BJP is invited to form a government - there is at
present no reason why it should not be - all that it is required
to do is to prove that it has the support of a majority of those
present on the day of voting. In other words, if the TDP members
abstain from voting or stay neutral, the government will be able
to carry on provided the promises the BJP has already obtained
>from some independents and smaller parties fructify. Narasimha
Rao's is a classic case of a minority government completing its
full tenure of five years. As events showed, Rao could have
proved his majority even without allegedly bribing the four JMM
MPs for his floor managers had ensured some strategic abstentions
too. However, a better comparison will be with the first C.
Achutha Menon Ministry in Kerala in the late Sixties. The CPI-
led Front was short of a majority but this did not prevent it
>from winning several trials of strength in the House. Consummate
coalition leader that Menon was, he saw to it that the Congress,
which was in the Opposition, had no option but to support his
government for fear of the CPM usurping power. Though the Front
went in for elections after a few months, its tenure was noted
for the progressive pieces of legislation it enacted.

The Kerala experiment proved that majority, however desirable it
may be, is not a prerequisite for good governance. Come to think
of it, the people did not benefit from the steamroller majority
Rajiv Gandhi obtained in the 1984 election. The absence of a
clear majority is a bother but it is no constraint to a party
intent upon providing a good government. By coming up with
innovative political and economic programmes, the party can
corner the Opposition into supporting it lest its critics lose
whatever popular support they enjoy. For that it does not matter
whether the BJP enjoys a working majority or an absolute

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