Commentary: Rise of Regional Parties and Coalition Politics and its Pitfalls

India has a multi-party system. It is estimated that over 2100 registered political parties have appeared in India since the Independence. Now, only six national political parties and 30 regional political parties are active in both Central and state politics. Earlier the regional parties were unable to play major role at the Centre due to the dominance of Congress Party. But of late, the emergence of regional parties have posed the most powerful challenge to India’s ‘One Party Dominant System’. Since 1967, the regional parties are emerging with greater political appeal to control most of the state politics. They emerged as a powerful force and played vital role in the formulation of governments at the Centre.

The presence of a number of ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious and caste groups within the Indian society is greatly responsible for the origin and growth of regional parties. Though the regional parties operate within limited areas and pursue only limited objectives, they have played significant role both in the state as well as in the national politics. These parties have formed government in several states and tried to implement their policies and programmes. Some of the regional parties are also partners in the coalition government at the Centre. In the eighth Lok Sabha Elections (1984), the Telgu Desam, a regional party of Andhra Pradesh, emerged as the main opposition party.

Presently, no single party is able to form government at the Centre. That confirms that the era of a single party rule has ended and a new phase of multi-party coalitions has set in. The regional parties have made a strong impact on the nature of Centre-State relations in India. They now, strongly uphold the cause of Indian unity and integrity along with upholding their respective regional interests. They have also focused the attention of the people in remote areas on various political and economic issues and contributed to political awakening.

Gone are the days when regionalism used to be viewed as a negation of nationalism or nation building. The regional parties have provided a new dimension to the process of national integration and nation building. Regionalism has lost its aggressive from due to the positive role of regional political parties. The leaders of regional parties have started playing an active and even deterministic role in the organisation of the Central government. Since 1996, twenty three regional parties have been sharing power at the national level. Their outlook now appears to be changing from confrontationalist and conflictual orientation to a tendency of co-operative bargaining in respect of Centre-state relations.

Further, in this new era of coalition politics, regional parties have emerged as active actors in the Indian political system. The new scenario in which coalition politics has come to emerge as a reality of Indian politics since 1996, has brought home the fact that the national parties must join hands with regional parties to strengthen their role and position in the Indian political system. Even the Congress has now realised and accepted the necessity of forging alliances with the regional parties, with the result that it was able to form coalition governments at the Centre with the help of regional parties in 2004 and 2009.

A coalition government means the coming together of more than one political party or group on the basis of common understanding or agenda. Coalition governments have a framework within which all the parties function. This is because no major party seems to be getting any decisive vote after a general election. In the post-independence period, the first coalition government came to power in the Kerala state. At the Centre, the first non-Congress coalition government came to power in 1977. This coalition was a collective of the non-Congress parties and forces opposed to Indira Gandhi’s party, that is Congress (I).

Coalition government suffers from some major pit falls. It finds difficulty in solving major problems because major problems require agreement and support of various coalition partners. Also, in day to day working of the government and administration, different party leaders and critics bring in objections and difficulties. They often oppose and obstruct the process of decision making and the conduct of decision implementation. As a result, the government finds it difficult to work smoothly. In a coalition politics, adjustment is required at the national, state and local level wherein stability and governance are both important to maintain the strength of political system.

After emergence of regional parties and coalition politics, Centre-State relation has been a cause of tension. Since the days of inauguration of the Constitution, the relations were smooth primarily because they operated largely under the umbrella of one party dominance, both at the Centre and in the states. But since 1967, the interpretation of the various Articles in the Constitution connected with the federal system, and the way they are looked upon by various actors and parties in these areas, have created irritants in the Centre-State relations.

The most serious situation is that non-ruling parties at the Centre and state, in various conventions and resolutions, have come out with demands seeking not only changes in Centre-State relations but in a way calling for the dilution of the very concept of the federalism itself. Financial problems in the Centre-State relations are the main focus of attention. In Indian politics, the national parties are on the decline and are being relegated to the background as regional parties are gaining strength. The phenomenon of growing regional tensions in the Indian society is one of the most conspicuous developments in the political culture of this country.

It is unfortunate that the realm of national security has also fallen under the debate of Centre-State relations. The laws relating to containing serious problems like terrorism, Naxalism and increasing violence have thus fallen into such debates. After the Mumbai attack on 26th November, 2008, the Government of India proposed two security agencies, namely National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the other the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), for proper investigation and integration and collation of intelligence in respect of such crimes. After lot of objections and debate, the NIA could get through but the NCTC could not see light of the day due to a debate that law and order falls under the jurisdiction of the state. The parliamentarians and the states should realise that in view of present security scenario, the Governance of India faces enormous challenges, and safeguarding the country’s security is truly a colossal task.

The security problems have gone beyond the reach of state governments. Hence these need to be addressed in co-ordination by the Union and states. Unfortunately, constitutional division of power creates barriers between these in jointly addressing the most important issue like internal and national security.

(The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct).


Image Source: https://s3.ap-southeast-1.amazonaws.com/images.deccanchronicle.com/dc-Co...

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.