BJP Versus Regional Leaders!

Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi addressed his party workers in the BJP central office. He said that the Congress had in fact been finished in 1967 but opposition parties failed to perform and kept it alive. He said that now finally the whole nation had voted for change and given its mandate to the BJP because it wanted a national party to govern India. From his tone and tenor it was clear that the PM considered his government to be a strong central authority that would look after the states and replicate the power and authority that characterized the first Nehru government.

The PM also met with all the general secretaries of his party. He instructed them to prepare for assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana later this year and in Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Bihar next year. He told them to also prepare for assembly elections of 2016 in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Assam and Puducherry. He wanted them to secure a BJP victory in all the states. Clearly, the PM is working towards creating a single party that might govern the centre and all the states. That is a good sign. He is focused on consolidating a strong centralized national party.

However, the PM glossed over one fact while addressing his party workers. He attributed the recent poll results solely to the nation’s yearning for a strong central government. In fact the results indicated a very strong anti-incumbency wave. The BJP performed spectacularly well wherever it had a significant presence, including in UP and Bihar. But the performance of the regional parties was as spectacular where the BJP presence was minimal. For Mr. Naveen Patnaik to win 20 out of 21 seats in Orissa, for Miss Jayalalithaa to win 37 out of 39 seats in Tamil Nadu and for Miss Mamata Banerjee to win 34 out of 42 seats in West Bengal was no less impressive. Mr. Modi has made his intentions clear. He will do everything possible to uproot the dominant regional parties and replace them by the BJP. How will the regional parties respond to this challenge?

Presently regional leaders are approaching the PM with requests for bigger financial aid packages or for granting special status to their states. One is sure the PM will be sympathetic, perhaps even generous. Right now he needs the votes of the regional parties in the Rajya Sabha. But eventually, what? Can there be any doubt that a strong adversarial attitude of the BJP will surface in each state with the attempt to wrest power? And would not this be the only sensible approach for a strong national party? Eventually even the NDA partners will by attempt be either swallowed wholesale or get marginalized like other regional parties. That is the rational and understandable logic of Mr. Modi’s long term strategy. Therefore if regional leaders also care to think long term they must decide. Are they prepared to eventually disappear, or will they fight to challenge the new centralized national party? And if they choose to fight, how might they proceed?

In fact the regional parties have a lot going for them. The Congress party is wiped out even though there are 44 disgruntled and demoralized Congress MPs in Lok Sabha. All together the AIADMK, TMC, BJD, YSR Congress in Seemandhra, and TRC in Telangana account for 111 MPs. If a part of the Congress group if not the entire contingent can be persuaded to join it would create a block of around 150 MPs. But forming a bloc will not challenge the BJP but merely vindicate Mr. Modi’s assertion that there is no credible alternative to his party. A challenge to the BJP will emerge only if the 150 or odd MPs form a party to take on the BJP both inside and outside parliament. To accomplish that, the following steps need to be taken.

  • First, a meeting of all the regional leaders should be convened to discuss the issue. They should agree that nothing must be done to dilute their respective authorities and powers in the state, but at the same time a credible formation at the central level is created to provide a real challenge to the BJP. I have often pointed out that the natural and healthy ideological polarization in Indian politics is between centripetal and centrifugal forces. The impulses of both centralization and decentralization have validity in federal India. The constitution of a federal party that allows autonomy to state units and achieves cohesion at the central level needs to be approved. The draft of such a constitution can be made available in a day. A policy agenda for the new party that addresses the systemic reforms required will also be required. The draft of such a policy agenda can also be made available in a day.

  • Secondly, if agreement is reached on these two points all the regional parties should launch a nationwide movement to propagate the highlights of their agenda to attract new recruits to their future party. There are across India thousands of members of defeated parties waiting for a chance to get active again. The movement should create a strong organization through appointment of conveners and executive committees in each state, each parliamentary constituency, assembly constituency and primary level unit.

  • Thirdly, the movement should hold a national convention to launch the new federal party, adopt its constitution, appoint its president and office bearers, and chalk out its schedule for the future. This entire process can be completed within one year. The new party should at the outset resolve to function strictly according to procedure and norms laid down in the party constitution and avoid the ad hoc and arbitrary approach adopted by the so called high commands of Indian political parties so far.

To achieve this is a tough call requiring self discipline by regional leaders. It remains doubtful if these leaders can achieve it. But if this were done, not only could the BJP be seriously challenged at the next general election, but there would be even chances that it could also be defeated. India would get a genuine two-party democratic system. That would help the government, help the BJP, and help the nation. So, will regional leaders quietly surrender, or will they fight?


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

Top | Analysis

Views: 3372      Comments: 3

Comment It is high time we follow the American model. The country needed the BJP and therefore it has come to power. Regional parties too will exist. The tendency of regional parties aligning with a national party for opportunistic reasons will always be a headache for this country. At this juncture it is difficult to predict whether Congress will emerge stronger from what it is today. It will be healthy for the country if every regional political party align on a long term basis with Congress or the BJP. What Nitish Kumar did has put him and his state in unnecessary turmoil. So also TMC in West Bengal. Marxists opposed Congress. Congress needed beligerence to fight Marxists. So TMC was born. TMC annihilated Marxists. Now, TMC, Marxists and Congress have no option but to join hands against BJP. TMC throughout its history has followed unprincipled politics and taken West Bengal to a situation worse than where Marxists first took the state to. Principled politics is sorely needed for this country.

Sharbaaniranjan Kundu
10-Jun-2014 21:56 PM

Comment Present system is good enough. Instead of being autocratic, center and state governments should follow principles of good governance working for people's good heath and wealth. There is nothing rosy about presidential system (USA). Parliamentary system is working in UK for centuries and the same system with minor changes has been adopted in India. And there is nothing bad it.

pranlal sheth
06-Jun-2014 08:00 AM

Comment A charismatic & capable leader is require to create a credible opposition by uniting regional parties sitting in opposition in Loksabha.

But there is none, the one that we had is consumed in the post of the PM, he is not in opposition group anymore !

All regional party heads are suffering from myopia, the suggestions made in this article are beyond their ability to comprehend.
Just for a little laughter - Ms Jayalalitha boycotted swearing in ceremony of the new govt because the head of Sri Lanka would be present there, that was because Ms. Jayalalitha was careful about anti Sri Lanka sentiments in Tamil Nadu, but next the PM took opportunity to convey the message to head of Sri Lanka that in interest of Tamil people in Sri Lanka, 13th amendment should be implemented. Thus, Ms. Jayalalitha lost an opportunity to influence while Mr. Modi took opportunity which must have created a little more space for him in Tamil Nadu now.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06-Jun-2014 02:16 AM

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