Role of Regional Parties in India
India is a nation known for its multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, and related diverse societies and groups. In the post-independent era till 1967, the Indian National Congress party, popularly known as the Congress party, maintained a monopoly of power in Indian politics. Due to the excessive domination of single-party leadership, regional parties came into existence. The origin of regional parties in national politics can be traced to South India. The protests against the imposition of Hindi as an official language instilled the feeling of regional and linguistic aspirations. The neglect of some regions led to dissent among the people concentrated in such areas. Thus, the population started shifting towards supporting regional parties that advocated their interests. This process of shifting of power and influence from a national party to parties operating at the state or regional level is referred to as ‘regionalism’. It is also important to note that local regional parties have exploited the phenomena of regionalism to turn voters to vote in their favor. For instance, people belonging to backward classes and castes have often supported regional parties. These regional parties have also profoundly influenced national parties and politics.
The fear of losing their cultural, political, and socioeconomic identity was the main factor behind the growing support base for regional parties in the 1960s thus these regional parties in India, have made Indian politics diverse. While these regional parties aim to fulfill the regional aspirations of people, it also cooperatively works with national-level parties. Thus, such a system of coordination has strengthened national unity. The central government has begun paying attention to addressing these regional problems.
As the regional parties were becoming more assertive in national politics, the distinction between state and national level parties was increasingly diminishing. The rise of many state-level parties been made it difficult for any single party to secure majority seats in the lower house. This kick-started the era of coalition politics, wherein different political parties joined hands to form a government. These regional parties have pressured the central government to recognize their interests thereby making the latter weaker.
The concept of regional parties is not limited to India. These parties are also found in other countries and have a profound influence over national politics. Some groups may oppose supporting them. According to such groups, regional parties have led to political instability and an increase in the demand for autonomy of regions. Political parties at the regional level have exploited the region’s ethnic and cultural factors.
There are those who view the participation of regional parties as essential in the wake of the democratic spirit. The parties, according to them, have given spaces to articulate the interests of the underrepresented and neglected class.
Being the largest democracy in the world, India has an important feature of the multi-party system, which is recognized as national, state, and district level parties. Positive regionalism is a way to strengthen and unite people divided by geographical and cultural attributes. The growth of regional parties in India is still in momentum. The following are some of the major reasons behind it:
- People from different regions are gaining knowledge about the importance of their distinct cultural identity. With a view to embracing and promoting their ethnic interests, regional parties are gaining importance. These parties highlight the regional imbalances and the neglect of their regions by the central government.
- The principle of self-governance and the desire to exploit the features of federalism has also led to the promotion of regionalism. These subcultural divisions have also ensured greater autonomy for the regions.
- In order to restrict the central government from taking actions that would disregard other communities and cultures, regional parties act as protectors of the interests of their respective regions.
- It is also important to note that the feeling of regionalism has persisted also because individuals have failed to recognize the interconnection of their own interests with national interests.
- The economic growth of India at the macro level has not been consistent. There are states that face bottlenecks at regional level growth. This inconsistency has intensified regional imbalances and inequalities.
- Political activities in various states have experienced corruption and scams. Due to this reason, government policies and programmes were not effectively implemented.
- The expenditure of the central government on the investment in human capital formation is not evenly spread across different states.
Impact Of Regional Politics In India:
- Apart from the exponential growth in the regional parties, the trend of regionalism in India has led to a refocusing on regional issues. In response to the growing political pressure on the central government, national politics has started reflecting and redressing the needs of regional people.
- Regional politics has negative implications, such as it acts as an impediment by neglecting national interests and undermining the importance of international diplomacy.
- It has changed the center-state relations as state-level parties are becoming influential at the national level.
- Coalition governments require consensus among diverse social groups for the implementation of policies and programmes.
Regional identities are not always a threat to the democratic machinery of a nation. India’s democratic system is moving towards providing spaces to articulate the opinions of different regions. In such a situation, there is a scope to promote and achieve balanced regional growth. However, it is also necessary to consider the internal threats of separatist movements that regional politics might accompany. Regional leaders who tend to use regional, cultural, or language barriers for the purpose of vote banks, undermine the principle of unity in diversity.
In order to achieve the twin goals of regionalism and nationalism, it is important for national leaders to incorporate the views and demands of regional leaders. The national leaders should be made aware of the needs of regional people in order to promote mass mobilization. In India, its diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture, language, etc. is the strength of its democracy. These diversities have been attributed to the emergence of regional parties that cater to the regional needs of people.