Ideology is secondary for most of the regional parties

it would be difficult for Sonia Gandhi to form any firm ‘alternative alliance’ against the BJP by mobilising a large number of opportunist and unprincipled regionalists

analysis Updated: Apr 13, 2018 16:45 IST
Opposition Unity,Regional parties,PDP
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee with Telangana chief minister KC Rao address the media after their meeting at Nabanna, Kolkata (File Photo)(PTI)

The BJP often talks about how the party’s success in elections is a great “ideological victory” and the clear message is that politics is just a means to achieve the primary ideological goal of establishing a unitary Hindu cultural nation-state for the country. The BJP differentiates itself from all other political parties because it is firmly committed to pursue its own distinctive ideology.

The BJP’s main rival, the Congress, has its own distinctive ideology of cultural pluralism, secularism and equal respect for linguistic and religious multiple diverse groups. The BJP has recognised this fact and this is why its leadership has announced that its political goal is to create a Congress-free India. However, at present, the Congress, on its own, cannot politically and electorally compete against the BJP, which is marching forward from Kashmir to North East India.

The Congress can effectively challenge its main ideological opponent only if it can form an alliance of like-minded parties committed to the goals of a democratic, secular, parliamentary, plural political system as mentioned in the Constitution. Can the Congress form an alliance of Opposition parties and create a platform for an “alternative politics” to the ruling BJP? A few facts may be mentioned to substantiate the argument that the prospects for the formation of an “alternative political alliance” to the formidable BJP do not seem too bright. First, it was expected that the Bihar model of Mahagathbandhan of three parties — the Janata Dal (United), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress — which could successfully defeat the BJP in the state assembly elections of 2015 would be replicated at the national level and India will have a political contest between the BJP and an alternative alliance of Opposition parties.

The Bihar model collapsed like a house of cards and it was once again proved that unlike the BJP and the Congress, other regional parties and leaders are practitioners of unprincipled and opportunistic politics. Second, the CPI(M) is intellectually, ideologically and politically equipped to understand that Indian politics is polarised between the BJP and the Congress. However, it is not ready to form any alliance with the Congress to oppose the BJP. Third, Mamata Banerjee of Bengal, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, KC Rao of Telangana and a few others are making an attempt to form a federal alliance of regional and sub-regional parties. On the basis of the experience of such opportunistic alliances, it can be unambiguously stated that this is a non-starter and the politics of equidistance between the BJP and the Congress is completely irrelevant and unrealistic because the BJP, and not the Congress, has emerged as the major political force .

Fourth, Mehbooba Mufti of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had the option to form a secular coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir but she decided to form an alliance with the BJP because like all regional bosses, she also knows that alliance with the BJP is beneficial for her. The larger issue is that many regional party leaders do not wish to alienate the party in power because they expect favours from a friendly Centre.

Ideology in politics is secondary for these regionalists because they took to the Centre for funds. It can be safely concluded from previous experiences of coalition governments at the Centre that the regionalists have never hesitated to surrender their ideological beliefs, if any, to get benefits by going in for marriages of convenience led by either Atal Bihari Vajpayee from 1998 to 2004 or Manmohan Sigh from 2004 to 2014. It seems that it would be quite difficult for Sonia Gandhi to form any firm alternative alliance against the BJP by mobilising a large number of opportunist and unprincipled regionalists.

CP Bhambhri taught politics at JNUThe views expressed are personal

First Published: Apr 13, 2018 16:43 IST