Should Regional Parties be allowed to contest National Elections?


India currently has too many political parties

India currently has 6 national parties (Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, Bahujan Samaj Party and Nationalist Congress Party) and 52 recognized state / regional parties (prominently Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), AIADMK, DMK, Biju Janata Dal, Akali Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Rashtriya Lok Dal, National Conference, Telugu Desam Party, Trinamool Congress etc.). Plus there are hundreds of unrecognized parties. All of this results in a high number of candidates per constituency (~15 in 2009 Lok Sabha elections vs ~5 in 1st Lok Sabha elections). Among these candidates, some are serious, some non- serious, some propped up by one party to cut into votes of opposition party, some who stand on their own and threaten to cut votes in turn for a deal. Basically any Tom, Dick and Harry can stand up in elections.   Too many parties have brought in the era of unstable coalition politics A large number of candidates confuse the voters and leads to a chaos. National elections should be fought on national issues and presence of a number of state parties dilutes the main agenda. For state / local issues you anyways have state assembly elections.

Since 1989 Lok Sabha Elections, no single party has got majority and all governments have been coalition governments. This has led to a lot of instability. India has seen 9 Prime Ministers since 1989, out of which 5 have not lasted their full term. Even governments which have lasted full terms like Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, Narasimha Rao have seen periods when allies have shown tantrums on bills proposed by their own supported governments.  The period also witnessed the decline in strength of Congress which in turn led to the emergence of strong regional satraps. Many of them have been offshoots of (i) the erstwhile Janata Dal (Mulayam’s SP, Ajit Singh’s RLD, Lalu’s RJD, Nitish’s JD(U), Patnaik’s BJD, Deve Gowda’s JD(S)) and (ii) Congress (Mamta’s TMC, Pawar’s NCP).

Regional Parties have no ideology & are hungry for power

These parties in most of the cases win seats fighting against Congress / BJP and after the elections join whichever combination has majority leading to horse-trading. They have no ideology & are hungry for power.  Few e.g. below:

– Ajit Singh was a Cabinet minister in Congress’s govt. in 1991 under N. Rao, NDA’s govt. in 1999 of Vajpayee and now recently joined UPA’s Manmohan govt. in 2012

– National Conference (Abdullahs) have been in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and now in UPA’s govt. of Manmohan since 2009

– Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been in NDA’s govt. of 1999 and UPA’s govt. of 2009. Recently pulled out

– Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) supported Rao’s govt. in 1991, was with NDA govt. in 1999 and now with UPA govt. after jointly forming government in Jharkhand

– Karunanidhi’s DMK was in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and in UPA’s govt. in 2004 & 2009 before pulling its ministers recently

– Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has been in NDA’s govt. in 1999 and also in UPA’s govt. in 2004, joined back NDA recently

– Sikkim Democratic Front has been in NDA’s govt. of 1999 as well as UPA’s govt. of 2004

– Nitish’s JD(U) was in NDA govt. in 1999, broke alliance with BJP recently, luring Congress for an alliance in 2014

How come these parties have supported both Congress & BJP governments who are ideology wise poles apart? Shows the ideological bankruptcy of these state parties!

What regional parties pray to god for?

Scenario I: There is a hung Parliament

  •   “Others” apart from two main combinations BJP & Congress get the maximum seats
  •   The subject state party gets the maximum number of seats in “others” category
  •   Congress / BJP are forced to do a Deve Gowda / Chandrasekhar formula to keep each other out
  •   This way leader of the state party with highest number of seats becomes the Prime Minister

Scenario II: There is a hung Parliament

  •   BJP or Congress whoever emerges as the single largest party can’t form government without them
  •   They in turn will bargain for maximum malai ministerial berths
  •   They will keep blackmailing the govt. throughout the tenure

Pity the intelligence of people who vote for regional parties in national elections

I am intrigued by the psyche of the voter who votes for a regional party candidate in Lok Sabha elections. There might be reasons like national parties have not put up good candidates. Then their decision is justified. But most of the time it is because they want their caste / state leader to become PM. Regional representation is also given as a reason. If a national party candidate wins will he not be representing the region? Deve Gowda episode has made all regional leaders day dream to become PM. Do voters of these parties ask their leaders what will they do if they don’t get majority on their own? Who will they support and why? Will they sit in opposition? If after elections regional party aligns with a national party, then the voter would have been better off giving vote directly to national party. Why go the indirect way?   

Electoral reforms the need of the hour

Currently to be a national party you have to be state party in 4 or more states. To be a state party you need >=6% of votes polled in the respective states. The definition of national party / state party also needs to change and it should be based on votes polled in Lok Sabha & State elections respectively. One suggestion could be that any party getting more than 5% of votes in Lok Sabha elections be called a national party. This is needed to get rid of instability at the center. This way you will not get a hung Parliament. A lot of countries have a 2/3 party system. Why can’t we?

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