Regionalism in Indian Politics is fast spreading across various states of India. It has become a striking feature of the Indian political party system. The rise of regional political parties have played significant role in the regional, state and even national politics of our democratic country.
After the first general election of 1952, the Election Commission had declared 19 political parties as regional parties. In fact, the regional political parties have become a part and parcel of Indian political system.
A regional political party usually confines its activities within the boundary of a state or region. It often represents the interest of a particular regional group, language group, ethnic group or cultural group. While forming their policies these regional political parties have often shown ideological integrity. They are generally not interested in taking parts in national politics. Rather sometimes they show militant attitude towards the national politics or to the Central Government. While showing this militant attitude they often get themselves engaged in unscrupulous political activities. Yet while they themselves come into power in their respective regions or states. They perform political activities with tremendous responsibility.
The most noteworthy examples of these regional political parties are the:
- D.M.K. and A.D.M.K of Tamil Nadu,
- The Telugu Desham Party of Andhra Pradesh,
- The National Conference Party of Jammu and Kashmir,
- The Akali Dal (party) of Punjab,
- The Trinamul Congress of West Bengal,
- The CPIM of West Bengal,
- The Assam Gana Parishad of Assam,
- The Gorkha League of Darjeeling in West Bengal etc.
It is also striking that, now-a-days, both in their political activities and range of their success, many a national political parties have taken the character of the regional parties. They also share their regional parties especially in the affairs and problems having all Indian importance. Even the Indian National Congress Party itself has more or less, taken the character of regional political party in some states.
Question arises what are the reasons behind the birth of Regionalism in Indian Democracy?
There are various reasons for its emergence of Regionalism in Indian Politics such as :
- Firstly, the administrative policies and decisions as well as the developmental plans taken at the national level may not satisfy all people of the country and these people, who remain dissatisfied, may feel that their interest are not properly safeguarded. In such a context they form the regional parties to solve their own problems. That was how the regional parties like D.M.K, A.D.M.K., the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir etc. were formed.
- Secondly, India is still not free from ethnic, racial and religious orthodoxy. Sometimes the Regionalism in Indian Politics emerge on these ethnic, racial or religious grounds. That was how the Hindu Mahasabha, Ram Rajya Parishad, Siromani Akali Dal, the Muslim League or even the Telugu Desham party was formed.
- Thirdly, sometimes the Regionalism in Indian Politics are formed on language issues as well. The D.M.K, A.D.M.K. parties of Tamil Nadu, the Telangana Praja Samithi of Andhra Pradesh or the Gorkha League of West Bengal etc. was formed on the basis of this language issue. These parties focuses on the interest of people who speak common language.
- Fourthly, sometimes the regional political parties are formed on the initiative of one or a few political leaders. However, these types of regional parties usually do not last long. Since, most of such political parties are dependent on one leader, they generally extinguish when the leader himself dies.
- Fifthly, sometimes the Regionalism in politics helps to safeguard the minority interests. The Muslim League, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the TYC etc. belong to this category of the regional political parties.
- Sixthly, sometimes the internal conflicts of the big national parties may pave the ground for the rise of the regional political parties. That was how the Congress party was divided into several small parties like Congress for democracy, Congress (J) etc.
- Seventhly, sometimes a leader of a big national party, if ousted from his other original party, forms a regional party to express his or her grievances. That was how Sri Ajoy Mukherjee formed the Bangla Congress or Smt. Mamata Banerjee formed the Trinamul Congress in Bengal.
- Eighthly, the regional political parties formulate their policies and programmes on the basis of the regional demands, grievances and interests of the people. Naturally they pin with them the confidence and loyalty of the people. The National parties to try to utilize this confidence and loyalty of the people for their own sinister interest. Thus they form Coalitions and Fronts and the Leftist and right political parties appear as strange bed fellows. This has made the regional parties gain a lot of importance and confidence.
- Ninthly, during the pre-independence days people fought for the country’s freedom and a unique sense of oneness, a sense of nationalism had flared up in them which had strengthened the solidarity and integrity of the nation. But after independence that burning sense of nationalism has evaporated and a narrow sense to regional interest has developed. This has also paved the grounds for the emergence of regional political parties.
- Lastly, the general decadence of values, too much centralization of power, dictatorial role of the leaders, negligence to the regional leadership etc. in the national parties have not only weakened their status but also facilitated the rise of numbers of regional political parties both big and small, in India.
Question arises should the emergence of the regionalism in Indian Politics be welcomed?
Critics are not unanimous in this regard. Those who favour the growth of regionalism in Indian Politics argue that in view of the success of Indian federalism, decentralization of power, greater autonomy of the component states, the emergence of regional political parties ought to be welcomed.
Others hold the view that the emergence of too many regional parties will jeopardize, in the long run, the very integrity of the nation as a whole. Moreover they argue that the Regional political parties are generally guided by narrow commercial interest. Every component states have their own social economic and political problems and the regional parties always try to highlight the interest of its own region and respective state.
- If the regional party comes in power in a province it tries to gain the maximum benefits neglecting the interest of others. This will give birth to very much ill feeling among others.
- As the regional parties always try to find out the defects of the parties in power, they cause problems and try to topple down the ruling party so much so that the developmental works in general are always jeopardized.
- In order to achieve their objectives sometimes the parties take the violent form and policies which often disturb peace and security and impede smooth functioning of the administration. This creates serious problems of the law and order situation.
- In has also been found that very often the Regional parties fail to keep their separate identity and eventually tag themselves with big parties for sake of power. Thus the very ethics of democracy is disturbed.