The regional parties should think national
VIEWPOINT BY ANIL ANAND
Some may call it the outcome of shoddy coalition management, others may rejoice in terming it as the signs of strengthening federalism wherein regional players are becoming increasingly restive to maintain their supremacy in national politics. Whatever it may be, the Mamta Banerjee- Dinesh Trivedi episode with its serious Constitutional dimensions, the latter being the Railways Minister, and its impact on the UPA Government has raised a serious question once again.
Are the coalitions in India a right track to strengthen federalism as is repeatedly being made out by the regional satraps? The question holds significance as in its answer lies the secret of how the Indian polity and its people should behave in electing their future Governments. Thirty five years after that failed Janata Party experiment, though it was a single party, so to say, but in effect was a loose coalition under one symbol and flag, and 22 years after the existing coalition era began with the formation of the Janata Dal Government, it is certainly time to ponder over.
The Banerjee-Trivedi episode has certainly triggered a debate. The manner in which the maverick West Bengal Chief Minister has behaved in an immature way to virtually challenge an important Constitutional exercise, the Railway Budget, in the name of public welfare, has raised a big question on the role the regional parties and their leaders have been playing all these years. It will be naive to conclude that regional parties have no role to play at the national level and that the national political outfits run roughshod and have their way on every issue.
One may agree with proponents of the idea that the country is in for a long haul so far as the ongoing coalition era is concerned. The reality, as of today, must be recognized both by the national leaders and regional players and act with greater responsibility and poise rather than taking extreme posture like Ms Banerjee which has left a bad taste in people’s mouth. Can she explain as to why there is no public outrage against railway fare hike as proposed in the Budget? She must mull over and find reasons behind her own stand, seeking Trivedi’s scalp minutes after he delivered the Budget, coming under scathing public criticism.
What Mamta has done and how the UPA (read Congress) leadership should have handled the situation, has raised certain issues relating to the management of coalition Government afresh. The biggest misnomer is the oft-repeated argument, particularly forwarded by the regional parties, that the running and management of a coalition Government is the sole responsibility of a national party heading it.
Agreed that the National parties, such as BJP in NDA and Congress in UPA, have a bigger role to play, the regional partners cannot altogether shun their responsibilities. It is time the regional parties learn to think national as raising the specter of federalism at the drop of a hat will only harm the national interest. Yes, given the past experience wherein the federal structure was taken far-granted with the declaration of Emergency in 1975 and certain other occasions, there is a strong case to be vigilant against such tendencies.
But can the setting up of NCTC, which could have certain provisions entering the state Government’s domain, is an issue to be raked up amidst the Assembly polls to try and derive electoral mileage out of it? After all, NCTC proposal had come much before the elections to the five state Assemblies including UP were announced. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik should have realised it earlier. But that was not to be. Somewhere amidst the UP polls he suddenly thought of tossing the idea of what he calls the “Federal Front” with the backing of other non-Congress Chief Ministers including BJP ruled states.
Federalism of the kind, which the regional leaders have perceived, is still at a distance. For that to happen they should not be guided merely by electoral calculations. It is the kind of a tightrope walking for them which under the present coalition culture they refuse to do. Shifting the entire onus of successfully running a coalition Government to the major partner will not only weaken the concept of coalition but also the federalism itself.
There is a strong case for the national parties like Congress and the BJP to overcome their weaknesses and play a dominant role in the national affairs. The Congress in particular should do serious introspection and find answers as to why many of the regional outfits have born out of it. Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party is the one glaring example of it.
The party must realise that the era of Nehru and Indira Gandhi is gone. No single leader, including the ones from the Gandhi family, will be able to ensure Congress victory in a Lok Sabha election from Kashmir to Kanya Kumari. The regional leaders must be nurtured and respected. So is the need to develop community leadership. Or else, the danger of the formation of many more ‘Vikas Congresses’ will keep looming large.
(The author is New Delhi Bureau Chief of Greater Kashmir. Feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 19 Mar 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 20 Mar 2012 00:00:00 IST
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