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October 2019
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Columns
Federal parties look up to New Delhi
 
(Mar 27, 2018): The electoral setbacks to the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Hindi belt states are making regional parties look up to New Delhi with fond hopes about wielding power after the 2019 parliamentary polls. The successful experiment of Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party fighting the by elections to the Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party convincingly has been the basis for the latest hopes for power bid at the Centre and federal assertions.

True some parties have been toying with the idea of such regional parties after the Congress won the local body and by elections in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. In Bihar, Lalu Yadav has proved that though in jail, his political clout is intact. Mamta Banerjee has once again proved that her mass following has not been affected. Added to that, is the desertion of Telugu Desam Party and Shiv Sena from the National Democratic Alliance.

BJP could do well in the assembly elections of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, successfully overthrowing the CPIM and the Indian National Congress from the region. But then the North Eastern states do not send many MPs to the Lok Sabha. In terms of numbers it is the Hindi belt that matters, which thanks to the growing population, is able to send substantial number of members to the Lok Sabha. Winning over the voters in the Hindi belt does help in increasing the political clout in the country.

Added to the setbacks in the Hindi belt, the BJP has lost its ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh. The mercurial chief minister of Telengana has proved to be unpredictable and Orissa Chief, Patnaik is keeping a respectable distance from the Parivar. There is a general fear of losing Muslim votes if seen in alliance with the BJP at the time of elections. With the development and Acchhe Din continuing to be a chimera, the electoral pull of Modiji is showing signs of recession.

In Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the electoral magic wand of veteran Amit Shah, victor of many electoral battle, has not been able to make much headway. Tamil Nadu management of Dravidian parties has resulted in a total mess and what shape it would take by 2019 elections even Lord Rama may find it difficult to predict.

In Kerala, the BJP is yet to make in roads and their decision to ally with SNDP leader, Vellapalli Natesan and his son has not been rewarding so far. BJP central leadership has realised that the father and son duo are hard bargainers even though they are yet to prove their support in the Ezhava community.The alliance came a cropper in the assembly elections over a year ago. Karnataka too is not easy for the BJP to make much headway. On the other hand in playing the narrow regional and caste-communal card, Siddaramiah is proving that he may be able to teach one or two lessons to the BJP in petty and dangerous political games.

To make matters worse DMK leader, M.K. Stalin has called for the formation of Dravida Nadu consisting of the five south states and union territory of Pondicherry. This is now gaining currency. The call is supported by theories of discrimination of the South. Figures are being circulated about how the southern states are treated almost like a colony. It is also pointed out that by efficient administration and strict population control the southern states have performed better for which the region is being punished.

The presence of the region in the Lok Sabha is restricted and almost dormant due to low population growth whereas northern states do increase their presence, thanks to their unchecked growth in population. Atal Behari Vajpayee understood the problem and provided relief to southern states. In fact, the terms of reference of the Finance Commission not taking into account the genuine probems, headed by N.K. Singh has provided the trigger.

The list of grievances is long. Some leaders are trying to make this mainly economic issue into a political one and whipping up sub national sentiments. One needs to watch the developments seriously as issues raised by the fringe which led to violence are looked at with utmost suspicion by the southern states.

Given the scenario, the regional parties do feel that they can have a stake in the future set up at the Centre if they play their cards carefully. Either they can go for a non-BJP, non-Congres federal set up at the centre or help one of the national parties to form a government on a programme based alliance in which the regional interests are protected.

In fact, the recent practice of special status and fancy projects to some most favoured regions should end.Development of the nation should be to end the regional imbalances and ensuring equitable allocations considering all aspects to protect the overall interests of the states and the nation.

Coming together of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh has actually given the spark. Mamta is working overtime for a national level federal front and the regional parties are looking forward to it with great expectations. Of course no one is sure whether the tempo and sentiments would last till 2019. Even if it lasts and the regional parties come out successfully in the 2019 polls, how stable such a set would be is not sure. Power of course is a potent glue but working together and carrying on taking into account problems of all in a spirit of give and take is no small matter. Above all is the huge ego of some of the regional leaders.

One cannot expect the crafty and clever Modi-Shah duo to watch in silence and fail to act to deal with the emerging threat. They have now enough in their political armoury to deal with the opposition and create divisions, as well as resources to win over.

However today the reality is that regional forces are looking to New Delhi awaiting the days when they can handle power. It is too early to make any prediction. But what is sure is that if regional issues and aspirations are not handled with care one can commit costly mistakes, retrieval from which may not be easy.


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