By Ravi Shankar
23rd September 2012 12:00 AM
Power is an ever-hungry succubus. Seductive yet sinister, it corrupts the dreams of leaders. It is becoming obvious that the new dreamwalkers of national politics—the pincode politicos—are possessed by an insatiable hunger for more. But regional dreams have a way of turning into national nightmares.
The capo di tutti capi of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, wants to be India’s next prime minister. Bihar honcho Nitish Kumar’s national hunger is unravelling the tenuous embroidery of coalition politics as he pits himself as a secular alternative to the BJP’s undeclared prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. Uttar Pradesh’s caste czarina Mayawati is banking on confused post-2014 parliamentary arithmetic to help her become India’s first Dalit prime minister. Chandrababu Naidu’s political yatra and Delhi pit stops are meant to revive his halcyon days as NDA’s most powerful satrap and more. Sharad Pawar has always been the man-who-would-be-king. Mamata Banerjee hopes to be the consensus candidate in the event of a 2014 realignment. Only the enigmatic Jayalalithaa has, so far, not offered any clue to her national ambitions.
Today’s operative word is transition. Change is driven by the ambition of small men who want to be giants. In the 1990s, the regional parties became overlords of their states. In the early Noughties, they became national kingmakers. Now they want to be kings themselves.
After having tasted power for a few decades, they strive to shed their parochial image and upgrade to national party status. The Samajwadi Party held its convention not in Lucknow but in Kolkata this time. In the next Lok Sabha polls, Mulayam will be fielding candidates outside Uttar Pradesh, particularly in the cow belt. SP even contested the Delhi University student elections, though unsuccessfully. Mulayam has given Rajya Sabha seats to leaders from outside the home state. In 2003, SP was the third largest party in Madhya Pradesh Assembly; in Karnataka, the late Bangarappa had fought and won on an SP ticket. The BSP contests elections in Delhi; it banks on its pan-India Dalit base to open accounts in other parts of the country. Mayawati fielded 243 candidates in the 2010 state polls and campaigned extensively but drew a blank—but she considers this a gambit that will yield results in the general elections. The BSP won three seats in the 2012 Uttarakhand state polls. NCP’s Agatha Sangma won in Meghalaya, though it was largely due to her family clout. The TMC opened its office in Uttar Pradesh, and won seats in Manipur. The regionalisitas believe that the numbers, though negligible compared to that of the national parties, are a start.
The sacrificial goat on the regional altar is invariably national interest. Only someone with the stature and eclectic wisdom of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, or the Machiavellian ministrations of P V Narasimha Rao could placate whimsical provincial nabobs to allow policy to work. India is in a state of political metastasis. Perhaps, the end of an era has begun for the parochial parties. If their bosses attain national stature, they will become powerful Central leaders like Kamalapati Tripathi, Y B Chavan, Pawar, Lalu Prasad Yadav et al: sovereign forces in their own right, propelled by their ambition and regional clout to determine political destiny. However, with the exception of BSP, territorial parties in the transit lounge lack ideological agenda or character. They are personal fiefdoms lacking the political understanding to execute the complex nature of centralised decision-making. History’s accidental hopemakers like Charan Singh and Deve Gowda left behind only instability in their time. Federalism is not about personal ambition in motion; it is a larger principle that sustains democracy, which thrives on dialogue and discourse between a strong Centre and powerful states. Kingmakers who ignored that principle, like Lalu and Karunanidhi have been reduced to being neither a national power nor a regional royalty.
- For team Rahul, it’s good politics that will yield rich dividends for poor Indians
- Four years of UPA-II
- Nine years as PM: What will be Manmohan Singh's legacy?
- Maharashtra’s aid to digitise rare manuscripts in Thanjavur
- 'Climate change may spell disaster for coastal economy'
- Lanka’s woman Thavil players fading away
- Pakistan's answer to electricity shortages: Don't wear socks
- All dead, no vultures fly in Andhra now!
- Suriya storms ahead of Vijay, Ajith online
- Incredible India! Cuppa at Rs 1,200 is Chiru’s idea of sustainable tourism
- Chennai Super Kings beat Mumbai Indians, reach IPL finals
- BSNL Ernakulam posts Rs 390-crore turnover
- Meghalaya's CMJ University faces probe after awarding suspicious PhDs
- Vindu Dara Singh nabbed for IPL scam links
- Man arrested for attempt to attack TV host Ranjini Haridas
- CCTV must for BPUT exam centres