The 2019 general elections may well usher in a new era of politics in the country – shifting from the two-decade-old national party-led coalitions to regional parties garnering enough Lok Sabha seats to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to government formation.
For long, the regional parties have been playing second fiddle to the two national parties – Congress and BJP. There is still a lingering but fast fading perception that regional parties have to join the UPA or the NDA coalition.
But recent political developments and trends across the country indicate that the regional parties have come of age and are ready to unshackle themselves from the so-called national parties. As TRS president and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has often pointed out, both the BJP and the Congress have been, over the years, reduced to what he terms as big-sized regional parties.
In several States like Telangana, Odisha and West Bengal, it is the regional parties that are in power commanding absolute majority in their respective Legislative Assemblies. The same is not the case in the BJP or the Congress-ruled States where they have had to fall back on regional parties or other minor players to remain in power.
Flavour from StatesIn the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, the results in just the four States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, which have a combined strength of 143 seats in the Lok Sabha, can decide who rules the country. Present poll forecasts are heavily in favour of the TRS, YSRCP and the BJD in Telangana, AP and Odisha, respectively, as also the SP-BSP combine in Uttar Pradesh.
According to pollsters, the TRS is expected to win all 16 seats it is contesting in Telangana, while the YSRCP led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy is tipped to win 22 of the 25 seats in AP. In Odisha, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has sent a strong signal that his party would win all the 21 seats.
The SP-BSP combine in UP is leaving no stone unturned to win most of the 78 seats the two parties are jointly contesting. The combined strength of these five ‘non-aligned’ parties may well usher in the winds of change in coalition politics the country has seen so far.
Given the ground situation, the cards seem to be heavily stacked against the BJP and the Congress this time around, since other regional parties that are at present aligned with the two may gravitate towards the federation of regional parties once the equations are clear on May 23.
Readying for Delhi
The following party positions, leaderships and strengths offer a quick peek into their emergence as forces to reckon with:
Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)With the single point agenda of achieving statehood for Telangana, K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) launched the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on April 27, 2001. The party was instrumental in carrying forward a sustained movement for about 14 years before it realised the long-cherished dream of statehood in 2014.
KCR was a member of the Telugu Desam Party before he quit it due to differences with its then president N Chandrababu Naidu over the latter’s negligence towards issues pertaining to Telangana. He resigned from the TDP membership, MLA’s post and Assembly Deputy Speaker’s post to float TRS.
In the 2014 Parliament elections, the TRS contested all the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the State and won 11, making it the eighth largest party in the Lok Sabha. It also won 3 seats in the Rajya Sabha. The TRS formed the first government in Telangana, winning 63 of the 119 Assembly seats in 2014. The party retained power in the State in the December, 2018 elections when it won 88 seats, for a near three-fourths majority.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, it is contesting all the 17 Lok Sabha seats in the State, but is supporting the MIM candidate Asaduddin Owaisi in Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency
.• TRS formed in 2001
• Founder president – K Chandrashekhar Rao
• Number of seats in outgoing Lok Sabha – 11 (now 13 following defections)
Yuvajana Rythu Shramika Congress Party (YSRCP)
The YSR Congress Party was floated by YS Jaganmohan Reddy following differences with the Congress leadership. After the sudden demise of then Chief Minister and Jagan’s father YS Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash in September 2009, Jagan undertook ‘Odarpu Yatra’ to console the families of those who had committed suicide or died of shock after the death of his father. But when the AICC asked him to call off his tour, Jagan quit the Congress.
Jagan and his mother YS Vijayalakshmi took over the leadership of an existing YSR Congress Party in March 2011. The party was originally founded by Siva Kumar, a Telangana-based advocate and a fan of Rajasekhara Reddy in 2009. While Jagan was designated YSRCP president, his mother Vijayalakshmi was named honorary president of the party. In the ensuing bypolls, the party won most of the vacated seats with record-breaking majorities, even as Congress and TDP candidates lost their deposits.In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the YSRC contested all the 25 seats in AP and won eight seats. The party is contesting from all the 25 Lok Sabha constituencies in 2019. Further, the party enjoys a strength of 67 members in the AP Legislative Assembly with a 175-member capacity.
• YSRCP formed in 2009
• Taken over by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in 2011
• Number of seats in outgoing Lok Sabha – 8
Biju Janata Dal (BJD)
The Biju Janata Dal was formed by the current Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, after splitting from the Janata Dal on 26 December 1997. Son of the legendary Biju Patnaik, who was twice Chief Minister of Odisha earlier, Naveen took over as CM on March 5, 2000 and has continued in the position for over 19 years now.
Prior to being the Chief Minister of Odisha, he was Minister of Mines in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the Centre for about two years. In 2000, he was an NDA ally, and fought the Assembly elections with the BJP. He ruled Odisha in alliance with the BJP for nearly nine years, but in 2009 walked out to fight the Assembly elections alone.The split only helped BJD gain in strength with the party winning 14 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 103 of the 147 Assembly seats. In 2014, the dream run got better with the party winning 20 Lok Sabha seats and 117 Assembly seats.
The traditional two-party State (BJD and Congress) is this time seeing a spirited fight from the BJP. But this could work to the advantage of the BJD owing to the split in the anti-incumbency vote between the BJP and the Congress.
• BJD formed in 1997
• Founder president – Naveen Patnaik
• Number of seats in outgoing Lok Sabha – 19 (after one resigned)
Samajwadi Party (SP)
The Samajwadi Party, which espouses a socialist ideology, was formed by Mulayam Singh Yadav on October 4, 1992, when the erstwhile Janata Dal splintered. It is a major party in India’s largest State of Uttar Pradesh and has formed governments in the State in 1993, 2003, and 2012. While in 1993, it had a coalition government with BSP, in 2003 it allied with smaller parties and in 2012, and it led a single party government.
While Mulayam Singh has been Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh thrice, his son Akhilesh Yadav was the Chief Minister of the State from 2012-2017. Mulayam Singh was also Defence Minister of India from June 1996 to March 1998.
The party aligned with the Congress for the 2017 Assembly elections in UP but the partnership failed miserably. It is now contesting the ensuing parliamentary elections, in alliance with the BSP, which is a strong force in Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the most formidable alliances in this election and has the potential to win a considerable number of the 80 seats on offer in UP. By steadfastly keeping the Congress out of the alliance, the party has kept its options open.
• SP was formed in October 1992
• Founder president: Mulayam Singh Yadav; current President: Akhilesh Yadav
• Number of seats in outgoing Lok Sabha – 7
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
Inspired by Dr BR Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party in 1984. The party draws its core support from Dalits, OBCs and religious minorities. Its current president Mayawati succeeded Kanshi Ram in 2003 and has been Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh four times.
The BSP scored its biggest victory in the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, winning 206 of the Assembly’s 403 seats. This victory was more important because the party effected a radical shift in its ideology and embraced the Brahmins, who were at its receiving end till then.
The BSP at different points in time allied with the Samajwadi Party, BJP as well as the Congress. Apart from UP, the party has pockets of influence in many States, including Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand. Though it does not have any representative in the current Lok Sabha, it is currently India’s third largest by vote share.
With Mayawati going hammer and tongs against both the BJP and the Congress and not shying away from declaring her prime ministerial ambitions, the BSP could be in a position to call the shots post May 23.
• BSP was formed on April 14, 1984
• Founder – Kanshi Ram; current president: Mayawati
• India’s third largest national party by vote share
Readying for Silver Jubilee
• Pawan Kumar Chamling, the founder president of the Sikkim Democratic Front, a regional party is now the longest serving Chief Minister of any State in India. He assumed office on December 12, 1994, and has held office for over 24 years, eclipsing the earlier record of Jyoti Basu, who was Chief Minister of West Bengal for a little over 23 years.