The Congress ran roughshod over them during the heydays of the post-Independent India’s one-party dominance r and now the BJP is preying upon them in its bid to spread its footprint all over India.
Regional parties, big or small, old or new, retain their relevance in India’s pluralistic society. And while defending their home turf, ideologically their alignments have ranged from the right, the left and the centre, depending on tactical advantage. In the current scenario, while the regional parties in the northern states of UP and Bihar chose the Congress to tag along, the AAP is fighting both the BJP and the Congress. In the east, the TMC is also ranged against both while Odisha’s BJD seems to have a soft corner for the BJP.
The BJP rules the entire northeast on its own or with regional allies having virtually ended the Congress hegemony. In north-western Maharashtra, the BJP has once again tilted the balance in its favour by toppling the Shiv-Sena-Congress-NCP coalition government after vertically splitting the Shiv Sena.
In the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry, coalitions are running governments. While the BJP already has Karnataka in hand, the ruling Left Front is again pitted against both the Congress and the BJP. And though the DMK ruling Tamil Nadu is an ally of the Congress, its rival AIADMK is closer to the BJP. In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, personality based regional outfits are fighting both the Congress and the BJP.
As the Congress is going through a phase of leaderless and directional drift, there appears little chance for it to retain its shrunken political space in any of the southern states. The BJP has realised this and is going all guns to spread its influence in the South. It has already launched an aggressive campaign against the TRS Government in Telangana where election is due next year.
The Modi-Shah duo’s war against corruption and nepotism is a clear indication that the BJP is all set to extend its presence in the South beyond Karnataka.
Significantly, having lost West Bengal and struggling to retain their foothold in Kerala, the Communist parties have also launched a war against regional parties. Calling for unification of the Communist parties, the CPI recently issued a statement saying the positions taken by the Congress and regional parties on economic and social issues are coming in the way of developing a “solid and viable Opposition unity”,
In a document released by the party in the run-up to its national conclave in October, the party criticised the Congress, saying it is “ideologically incoherent and inconsistent”, and argued it has failed to “anchor and galvanise” the Opposition and its approach regarding this has remained ad-hoc.
The political objective of the Left’s call for a Congress-free Opposition may be different from Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s slogan of a Congress-mukt (Congress-free) India, but it bound to things easy for the BJP in the run-up to 2024 General Elections.