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- 02/09/14--09:16: Prospects of Regional Parties in 2014 General Elections
By Syed Ali Mujtaba,
With the coming together of 11 parties to form a bloc for a joint floor strategy in the Parliament, the idea of a secular, democratic front is taking concrete shape. The 11 parties are the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), AIADMK, Asom Gana Parishad, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Janata Dal (Secular), Biju Janata Dal and the four Left parties.
This is a very significant development because the leaders of the 11 parties have indicated that individual parties can go in for seat arrangements in their respective states. Right now they together have 92 seats in the current Lok Sabha.
The idea of regional parties leading the country is not new. It has been afloat since the breakup of United Front government (1996-1998). An attempt by the regional satraps to provide an alternative to the two national political formations at the center assert is going on since then.
This is buoyed by the fact that since the beginning of this millennium the vote percentage of both the Congress and the BJP is drastically going down. If the last two general elections are any indicator, then its regional parties that have gained over the national parties in both the elections held earlier. The prospects that they may continue to do the same in the 2014 General Election is quite obvious.
The triumph of the Aam Admi Party in the Delhi assembly election 2013 has not only surprised the Congress and the BJP but has also set a new trajectory of the 2014 polls.
There are some trends clearly emerging out of this unexpected victory of AAP. One, the number of regional parties is slowly increasing in India. Second, the Congress and the BJP can no more bask on glory that there is no alternative to them. Third, the prospect of the regional parties playing a national role is getting brighter.
So far, the regional parties have been playing a second fiddle role tucking the tail of the either national parties. The growing rise of regional parties is changing this trend very fast. It is seen as an attempt to harmonize the regional and national political aspirations. There is a thinking developing in the country that if the AAP can unseat the Congress and the BJP in Delhi, why regional parties can’t do the same at the center as well.
There is nothing wrong behind the idea of the regional parties taking over the reign of national governance. In fact it would be an attempt to make the national politics multi-polar and check the drift to straight-jacketed two party political systems. In this context the real debate is, can the regional satrap provide an alternative government and steadily chug India after the 2014 polls?
This answer to this can be found in the fundamental question whether regional political parties, even it forms a rainbow coalition, can cobble 272 seats? The answer to this can be given only after the 2014 general election and not before it.
It's all for sure that the regional parties’ leadership will keep their cards close to their chest and will open it only after the final results are announced. It is only then the fate of the regional parties forming the next government can be discussed.
The idea of regional satraps taking the reign of the country’s leadership is conceptually sound, but with so much of pulls and pressure surrounding it, this idea operationally seems non-viable. So far all its moves have misfired. Will it succeed in 2014 is questionable?
In 2009 general election this idea was mooted first but its own architects betrayed its concept. What emerged from that fiasco was that India's regional politics remains too immature. It also raised the question that with much differences prevailing among them, how long such a coalition can remain intact? Will it be a repeat of Janata Party experiment of 1977?
Indian democracy seems to have a long way to go to harmonize the regional and the national aspirations. The regional experiment though noble may take time to fructify. At the moment this experiment is in trial and error phase. It’s questionable whether it’s ready for taking up the responsibility of country’s leadership.
There is no doubt the preference of regional parties over the national parties is growing in the country. With it is increasing assertion of regional parties on the national scene. However, sounding the death knell of the national parties will be too premature a call now.
Even if the regional parties may call the shots in 2014 General Elections it is unlikely they may be able to replace both the Congress and the BJP. There is an outside chance, that it may form the government with the support of either of the national party.
There is no denying of the fact that regional parties will have a major role to play in the formation of the next government after the 2014 General Elections, even though India's political trajectory remains hazy right now.
Author is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at email@example.com