The outcome of the five-state assembly elections has provided a clear indication that in the near future, regional parties and leaders will control levers of power and have a greater say in formulating or influencing polices made by the Centre.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) led by Mulayam Singh Yadav, for instance, is unlikely to adopt a docile attitude towards the UPA government and will probably push its own aggressive agenda based on promises it made to the people of Uttar Pradesh in its manifesto. The SP will deal with the Centre from a position of advantage it has acquired following its historic victory.
Similarly, the Akalis, buoyed by their unprecedented second successive win, can be expected to be more assertive while making demands or dealing with the Centre, which is already trying its best to engage
with strong chief ministers like Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa.
The election results in UP, the country’s largest state, have made it evident that the two national parties — the Congress and the BJP — were only peripheral players and that this role could extend to national politics subsequently.
Mayawati, who has lost power in UP but remains a player both in the state as well as the Centre, will also perhaps not allow the UPA to take her support for granted.
After all, it was the Congress party’s frontal campaign against her government that led to her downfall. And, the SP benefited greatly from the development since it had a better support and vote base and infrastructure in place.
The situation that seems to be emerging is similar to the one in 1996 in the post PV Narasimha Rao period when regional satraps called the shots and determined the politics of the Centre.
If HD Deve Gowda became the prime minister, it was essentially because Lalu Prasad Yadav, Chandrababu Naidu, MK Karunanidhi and GK Moopnar, among others, navigated the course of events.
The Congress, which forms the nucleus of the UPA government, has, time and again, tried to contain its allies like the DMK, NCP and Trinamool Congress. It will now have to deal with regional parties outside the fold of the alliance with the objective of wooing them to ensure they do not threaten the continuation of its government at the Centre.
In doing so, the Centre may suddenly start looking fragile as many of the regional leaders are likely to work towards re-alignment of forces.
The BJP, which is in power in several states, is also facing a dilemma of sorts.
The internal fighting and failure of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh to resolve the party’s leadership crisis could lead to a situation in which strong regional forces come to occupy the present opposition space in the country.
The first real test of where the two national parties stand vis-à-vis the emerging strength of regional parties will be the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections scheduled in July and August, respectively, and the Union budget. The fear that a period of instability in the country’s politics could have begun is not totally ill founded.