Parties to democracy
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In the life of a diverse nation such as ours, regional parties have often saved the day
Wise men say that a week is a long time in politics. By that token, two years is an eternity. So while it is presumptuous for anyone to predict what will happen in the general elections in 2014, I was taken aback by the recent spate of public comment that suggests that the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 shall witness a fractured verdict, and concomitantly a coalition government shall be at the helm of affairs. The strange, a priori conclusion is that economic growth would be a casualty. Now, I don't know where this pessimism comes from, because this line of argument certainly isn't substantiated by modern Indian history. The derogatory sobriquet of "Hindu rate of growth" was a legacy of days when we had complete majorities at the Centre, while the heady growth decades of the 1990s and 2000s were marked by coalitions of various hues at the Centre.
People forget that regional outfits have played a remarkable role in addressing the concerns of the regions they seek to represent. The most recent example is that of Bihar. It is Nitish Kumar's performance and popularity in his home state, which at one time was deemed beyond redemption, that has burnished his credentials as a future prime ministerial candidate. The popularity of his counterpart in neighbouring Odisha is another example. In fact, it was Naveen Patnaik's father, who was one of the pioneers of the regional cause. It was Chandrababu Naidu's TDP that gave Hyderabad its reputation of being India's technology capital.
James Madison once remarked that large, diverse republics with varying interests are a better home for liberty and equality than uniform societies. Regional parties have played a sterling role in perpetuating the principles of parliamentary democracy in our diverse nation. The parties at the Centre have often shown their vulnerability to hegemony and the tendency to frame insensitive policies. This attitude has been facilitated by a feeble or ineffective opposition in the Lok Sabha. Under those circumstances, it was the regional parties that saved the day. The most prominent example was the response to the attempt to lay down a "national language". If the resentment of the Dravidian states had not found political expression under the stalwarts of DMK, secessionist fires would have engulfed the whole of south India. A cursory look at the history of the implementation of Article 356 shall reveal that the so-called national parties have often been goaded by hubris. Imposition of Central rule in the states was inevitably followed by thumping victories for regional parties in the subsequent assembly elections.
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