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Millennium Post

Playing the merger card

Indian democracy seems quite open and different than democracies in other countries. It is difficult to keep a count on the number of political parties as every now and then new parties keep emerging.

Since we don’t have a two-party system, the country has to face the advantages and disadvantages of multi-party democracy. Not all political parties are recognised at the national level. The Indian National Congress, the oldest political party, can boast of pan India presence. This is the only party that has its honourable presence in most of the states and union territories across the country.  

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), next to the Congress, has its presence in many states and three union territories but it has no foot hold in at least two major southern states and some northeastern states. The party has been searching for regional parties in one or the other state to expand its base. The experience has paid dividends to the BJP on many occasions and has also affected its sheen after appearance of cracks in the ongoing arrangements. Let us not discuss the role of registered parties as they have been on live record of the Election Commission of India just for academic reasons. It is generally observed that the possibility of a single party gaining majority on its own in a general election is very bleak. Hence, it becomes imminent to search for potent regional parties in run-up to the general election. The regional parties, at times remain willing to join pre-poll alliance and at time take sides keeping in view the strength of one or another major national party in forming the government after the elections.

There are many such regional parties which shared their bed with both major national parties in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) alternatively. The parties are AAIDMK, DMK from Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress from West Bengal, J&K National Conference and Jharkhand Party. These parties have been taking their decisions keeping in view the given situation. The regional parties such as Shiromani Akali Dal from Punjab and Shiv Sena from Maharashtra have always remained tied up with saffron alliance despite having differences at state level. The regional parties such as Nationalist Congress Party headed by Maratha Chhatrap Sharad Pawar from Maharashtra, Telengana Rastra Samiti headed by T R Chandershekhar from Andhra Pradesh and Indian Union  Muslim League from Kerala sided only with the UPA whereas regional parties like Assom Gan Parishad from Assam and Biju janta Dal from Odisha were part of the NDA government. The Telugu Desham Party of Chandrababu Naidu sided with the NDA and gave outside support and had one of its MPs as the Lok Sabha speaker for few years. The other regional parties like late Choudhry Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party, Ch Devi Lal’s Indian National Lok Dal remained with NDA and shared power in Haryana though theses two regional parties never sided with the Congress party in centre. The other regional parties like BSP and SP have been supporting the UPA on different occasions without joining the Union government.  The Lok Dal from UP though a constituent of the present UPA has been in one or another flock in the past. The regional political parties have been rendering critical outside support as per their own compulsions and the political situations. Though SP-led by Mulayam Singh Yadav was part of the coalition union government headed by the two Prime Ministers HD Devegowda and Inder kumar Gujral but BSP has yet to share power at the centre.

Though the elections for the next Lok Sabha are far away, the negotiations and possible permutations and combinations are being frequently discussed in political circles. Prior to the next Lok Sabha elections, the state elections in the four Hindi speaking states - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and  Delhi would project a likely shape of thing to come at the centre. The litmus test in the so-called Hindi belt is going to be between the Congress and the BJP and the results would set the tone for the future alliance at the national level. The other national parties and a few non-existent regional parties would not cut any ice. The results would be out only three month before the next Lok Sabha election. Hence, would present a fertile ground for the tie ups and marriages of conveniences.

The supremo of certain regional parties are also dreaming to bargain for the highest executive post of the country after bagging the maximum number of Lok Sabha seats from their respective states. They have started gearing up their workers and resources to obtain maximum yield out of election field. Their ambitions are not hidden and they can go up to any extent to achieve it. The results of the four Hindi speaking states would hence be extremely crucial. The future role of the regional outfits would naturally depend on the results of these states. Let us eagerly wait to assess the emerging political scenario and finalising the next leader of the country in 2014.

Satpal is a communication consultant
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