The 1967 General Elections brought a historic shift in the trajectory of Indian politics. This year saw the end of all omnipotent Congress and announced the arrival of regional parties in the Indian political landscape. It is in this year that Dravidian Mantra Gymkhana (DMS) of Tamil Nadia came to power at the state level and challenged the hegemonic dicta of Congress. It won a commanding 138 seats in the Tamil Nadia Assembly and 25 seats from the State in the Look Saba.
This was yet Just a beginning; Indian politics was now to embark on an era of coalition overspent and the politics of regionalism. Trainman Congress in West Bengal. Restrain Kanata Deal in Briar, The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its Left Front Partners in West Bengal, Kraal, and Tripper , TOP in Andorra Pradesh, GAP in Assam, Samizdat party and BSP in Attar Pradesh and National Conference and PDP in Jam & Kashmir are major regional parties today. In fact the presence of regional parties is not surprising in a culturally diverse country such as India.
There is no one common man. He is common and identifiable only to a region. The regional lattice parties are his mouthpiece espousing the cause of their common man. In such circumstances my quest is not merely to describe the manner in which the regional political parties have surfaced as dominant partners in the Indian political culture but also the kind of role that these parties are fulfilling. One of the ways in which the regional parties have impacted the political environment is through the formation of coalition government.
This has various implications. The kind of parties that have been accommodated in the national ruling parties, the kind of bargain achieved, the change in the political strategy, the inclusion of and respect for the representation of the weaker sections, caste politics and the debate between requirement of constitutional federalism and yet weakening democracy are the major concerns that are sought to be addressed. I have argued that regional parties are the touchstones of our federal polity.
They are great equalizers and capable of promoting a healthy centre-state relation. However, it is the presence of negative regionalism within these regional parties and the consequent undemocratic underpinnings here the divisive forces operate and the idea of multi-party democracy indulges itself excessiveness. After DMS had broken the long 1952-67 spell of Congress rule, other regional parties appeared. In the mid-term election in 1969, Kali Deal emerged as a dominant partner in the coalition government in Punjab.
Similarly, the Barbarity Keratin Deal (BACK) in Attar Pradesh, Bangle Congress in West Bengal and Swansea Party in Arioso during the sass’s participated in the coalition government of the respective states. In the 971 parliamentary elections Congress under the charismatic leadership of Mrs. Nadir Gandhi and the popular slogan of “Grabbier Hate” was again restored as the single largest national party in the Country. This however did not mean that the emergence of regional parties could be dismissed as a mere translational phase.
This year saw the rise of Ship Seen in Maharajahs and Talladega Pray Summit in Andorra Pradesh which won 10 seats in the Look Saba. In 1 elections Talladega Pray Summit won 14. 4% of the vote with every seat in the Talladega region of the state. In Assam, the All Party Hill Leaders Conference won 10. % of the vote. In Harlan, the Visual Harlan Party won 9%. In Arioso the newly formed Tactual Congress won 22. 7% and in Attar Pradesh the B. K. D. Edged out Jan Gangs as number two with 12. 6% of the vote. In Punjab, the Kali Deal won a magnificent 30. % of votes. Though the position of individual regional parties declined in parliament, their overall position improved slightly from 41 seats in 1967 to 49 seats in 1971, the increase mainly reflecting the emergence of the Talladega Pray Summit. Lewis Pickett in his article “The Politics of Regionalism in India” has vided these regional parties into two categories, namely, the chauvinist parties like DMS and Ship Seen and parties that were an offshoot of a general disillusionment and a desire to break from Congress.
During late July 1967, dissident Congress groups became key components in the non-Congress coalition governments formed in seven of the nine Indian states in which Congress lost control. The failure to implement anti-poverty programmers lead to the loss of faith and support among the masses for the congress. The vulnerable and fragile rural India became susceptible to new forms of political manipulation. 977 post-Emergency government of Immoral Ideas formed an alliance government with the Chairman’s Kali Deal and Congress for Democracy sharing power with the Kanata Party.
In 1989 UP Sings formed the National Front government with the help of the BGP and the Left which were ideological opposites. 1991 saw no political party with a clear majority and the INC formed a minority government under IV Anarchism Oar and was able to complete its 5 year term. In between the years 1996-98, India was in political turmoil with the BGP and United Front forming their governments consecutively. In 998 AND under the leadership of Mr. Payees formed the government which became the first non-congress party to rule the country for an entire period of five years.
The 2004 general election saw the ousting of AND and the victory of congress led coalition PUPA which was formed mainly to oust BGP, with the ICP(M) being the prominent partner apart from TRY in Andorra Pradesh, MD in Tamil Nadia and ID(S) in Karakas. In 2009 elections again PUPA retained its power with the help of Trainman Congress, DMS, NC and others as coalition partners. The popularity of regional parties is unprecedented. A good example would be that of Deluge Ideas party which remains the largest opposition party regionally and has survived well for decades.
Thus we see that post 1996 there has not been a single gob that could secure majority power without the support of regional parties. REGIONAL PARTIES AND REGIONALISM A distinction is sought to be drawn between regional parties and the regionalism within a party. A regional party is characterized by its geographical limits of operation and espouses specific demands concerning the region. Regionalism in its positive connotation meaner love and identity with a region.
Regionalism in its active sense can lead to obsessed love for a region, disrespect for democracy and rule of law, violent discrimination against migrants, and demand for cessation from the union. Quite many regional parties have originated and thrived in this socially and emotionally charged milieu of negative regionalism. DMS and DIADEM which was an offshoot to DMS were rooted in Tamil Nationalism. It supported Tamil language, greater administrative autonomy for the states, a more favorable financial allocation for Tamil Nadia, and a vaguely populist economic policy.
Similarly, the Kali Deal can be considered both a regional and communal party. It found its origin in the Sikh Guardian movement. It became a vehicle for espousing the demand for a separate Sikh homeland and demanded greater autonomy for the Punjab and protection of Sikh religious values. Ship Seen in 1966 came up with the slogan “Maharajahs for Maharani’s”. The Communist parties, namely the CPM and the ICP, given their meager national base, have to be considered as regional and more so as Bengali parties. Three important trends can be identified looking at the nature of the regional parties.
The mandate of these regional parties are seen to be communally and ethnically charged. The Ship Seen and the recent surge for the creation of Boatload are examples that show that regionalism buried in the regional parties carries the seed of division, hatred and undemocratic tendencies. DIADEM which is currently in power in Tamil Nadia shot to victory in the political battleground using issues of mass appeal like north-south divide, Tamil identity, self-respect and people’s participation in politics. Fragmented support for the central parties makes these small regional parties big enough to blackmail the central government.
The centre in turn is bound to keep them in good humor. Hence, the creators often come the violators of the rule of law. Secondly, the concerns of caste, religion and class have come into play. The parallel movements in Tamil Nadia, one by the Brahmins who believed in the national ideology and the second by the non-Brahmins who sought to strengthen the regional base to challenge the higher caste based social hierarchy of Brahmins and formed the Anyway party was a clear manifestation of the growing relation between castes and politics.
This party eventually disintegrated. However, the divide and the Dalai politics still cast its shadow in almost the entire of South India, especially Karakas and Tamil Nadia. The peasant groups in Briar, the Dalais and Muslims in UP, the Advises in Shorthand have changed the numerical dynamics of parties and elections. The best example would be that of the BSP in UP which solely relies on votes from the scheduled castes and the Muslims. BSP was founded by Kinship Ram in 1984 and he succeeded in winning support from the Harridan community.
Samizdat party which is currently ruling the State is also based on the support from the backward classes. The Congress and the BGP which were supported by dominant upper castes changed in the wake of the rising caste eased politics. The result is that these regional parties are bound to espouse the cause of particular castes or communities rather than seeking the development of the entire region. Here regionalism in the true sense is inoperative. The politics here is the politics of majority votes and the thirst for power. This is an equally damaging aspect of regional parties.