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Author: Ajay K Mehra
O P Sharma/
Publisher: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
ISBN/UPC (if available): N/A
The Centre for Public Affairs and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, partners in intellectual and policy explorations for nearly a decade, chose to explore various implications of the emergence and strengthening of ‘regional parties’ in India over the past couple of decades. Regional parties are not unique to India, but they have been perceived differently in different democracies and their role assessment too varies. The explanations linking their origins to regionally-based social cleavages, which also at times lead to fears of regional nationalism, centrifugalism and secessionism, have their limitations despite play of such factors in certain certain political situations in certain countries. Hence there is a natural suspicion of regional parties.
In India, regionalism was initially perceived as antithetical to nationalism. Regionalism still emerged and strengthened in India since the early 1960s and caused serious concerns on possible centrifugal trends. However, despite gaining ground during the 1970s and 1980s, politically it could break the Congress monopoly only in 1989. The 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium have witnessed an irreversible trend in their growth and consequent weakening of the national parties and their dependence on them for forming the government at the national level. Obviously, this also means an acceptance not only of regional parties, but also regionalism to an extent, at least. For example, the UPA was in alliance with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Andhra Pradesh against the Telugu Desam Party, but did not accept their regional demand for a Telangana state. Naturally, such paradoxes will keep emerging from time.
Two points need to be stressed out at the outside. First, ‘regional party’ is only an analytical category in India. It has not statutory recognition; the constitution does not mention political parties at all the Election Commission of India recognizes ‘state parties’. Second, many of the so called regional parties are breakaway groups from national or larger parties. They are ‘regional’ only to the extent that their sphere of influence, as of one or a few leaders they have, is limited only to a state, a few states, or a region. The ECI has its own formula to define a party as a state party. Thus, ‘regional parties’ as champions of particular regions are not as common as the widely used nomenclature.
List of Tables
Nation and its Regions
Parties National and Regional
National Parties and Regionalism
The Compulsion of Alliance and Policy Pressures
The CMPs and the Emerging Regionalism