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Published On:23 March 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

OPINION: India heading to be “United States of India”

By Ab Qayoom Khan


“I own the responsibility for this.... I take it in my stride and it is a very good lesson for me” said the Rahul Gandhi on U.P election results.


Having restored back the credibility among Muslims, the spectacular victory of Samajwadi Party with 224 seats is the biggest-ever for any one party in the last two decades. The credit also goes to the emergence of charismatic young leader Akhilesh Yadav, who with his earthy wit and style, was able to charm the large number of young voters, with the promises of employment, computers and end of “Goonda Raj”. In UP, it was one regional party (SP) taking over from other regional party (BSP), with national parties, Congress and BJP having got reduced to status of 'alsorans' with 47 and 50 respectively.


With more than twenty years out of power in the politically crucial state of UP, the Congress was desperate to make inroads and be back in the reckoning. The campaign was led by the Congress scions Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, with more than 200 rallies and road shows. Rahul Gandhi was aggressive, sparing no one in his attacks, be it the BSP, SP or the BJP. But Congress fared miserably, managing only 28 seats at its own in UP - just six more than its disastrous score five years ago. The performance was, in fact, worse than the worst-case scenario drawn up by the party, raising a big question mark on the effectiveness of Rahul as a vote-catcher. Coming after the party's rout in Bihar two years ago, the UP debacle appeared to underline the limits of the appeal of the Nehru – Gandhi family. What lessons Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have learnt, are not known but for the Congress Party, it is the time for serious introspection in historical background.


Since independence congress has ruled for 52 years and the others for 13 years only. Almost 80% of the time India was with Congress. Founded in 1885, in early 20th century under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress became a forceful mass organization in the country, bringing together millions of people by specifically working against caste differences, untouchability, poverty, religious and ethnic boundaries. It had members from virtually every religion, ethnic group, economic class and linguistic group. The party was in many ways umbrella organization sheltering within itself all the shades of the Indian people. Having given the freedom to the people of India, it was able to inculcate the sprit of Indian nationalism among its people.


After the Gandhi's assassination in 1948, and the death of Sardar Patel in 1950, Jawaharlal Nehru was the sole remaining iconic national leader. Soon the situation became such that Nehru was key to the political potency and future of the Congress. Nehru embraced secularism, socialist economic policies and a non-aligned foreign policy, which became the hallmark of the modern Congress Party. Nehru's policies challenged the landed and business classes, and improved the position of religious minorities and lower-caste Hindus. A generation of freedom fighting leaders was soon replaced by a generation of people who had grown up in the shadow of Nehru. Nehru led the Congress to consecutive majorities in the elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962. After Nehru's death in 1964, the party's future first came into question. No other leader had Nehru's popular appeal, so the second-stage leadership mustered around the compromise candidate, the gentle, soft-spoken and Nehruvian Lal Bahadur Shastri. Shastri remained Prime Minister till his own death in 1966. and thereafter a broad Congress party elections opted for Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter.


The leadership of Indira Gandhi came under a serious challenge in 1967. The Congress splited and breakaway group led by Indira Gandhi was recognized as Indian National Congress by the Election Commission of India. Indira Gandhi used a populist agenda raising slogans such as Garibi Hatao (Remove Poverty). With historic victory of 1971 war and birth of Bangladesh, Indira Gandhi swept the 1971 elections. Gradually she grew more authoritarian. By using her strong parliamentary majority, her ruling Congress Party had amended the Constitution and altered the balance of power between the Centre and the States in favour of the Central Government. She had twice imposed "President's Rule" under Article 356 of the Constitution by declaring states ruled by opposition parties as "lawless and chaotic", and thus seizing control. In response to her new tendency for authoritarian use of power, public figures and former freedom fighters like Jai Prakash Narayan, Satyendra Narayan Sinha and Acharya Jivatram Kripalani toured India, speaking actively against her and her government. Indira Gandhi moved to restore order by ordering the arrest of most of the opposition participating in the unrest. After setting aside her election in her constituency in 1971 elections, by Allahabad High Court, the President of India Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed on the recommendations of the cabinet on 26 June 1975 declared a state of emergency caused by internal disorder, based on the provisions of Article 352 of the Constitution. It is one of the most controversial periods in the history of the Congress. This gave birth to a new set of grass root level leaders, who got together under the banner of Janta Dal/Janta Party and the Congress was defeated in 1977 elections. The Janta Party government could not survive for long, with its fall within two years, though Indira Gandhi made a comeback in 1980 but the damage done was too far and permanent. The fractured Janta Party gave rise to set of leaders, who mobilized the masses particularly OBCs and religious minorities and with their regional aspirations, new regional political parties came into picture which threw a challenge to the political monopoly of the Congress Party.


Growth of Regionalism & Regional Parties


India is perhaps the most diverse nation in the world, in terms of languages, religions, culture, and cast. These diversities for ages have led to inheritance of the internal conflict in the Indian Society.


Regionalism is not a new phenomena. The origin of the DMK in Tamil Nadu & Akali Dal in Punjab is prior to Indian independence.


Over the years as the Congress lost the ground, the regional parties filled the vacuum. The tendencies of centralization on the part of the Congress leadership made the regions apprehensive of the Centre. Indra Gandhi only helped to reinforce this trend.


Even the elected Congress legislators could not elect their leader but had to authorize the Congress President to nominate the one. The Congress promoted the loyalty rather leaders with mass support. Successive Congress governments also turned the federal setup into a unitary one and promoted “Asymmetric Federalism” with unequal powers and relationship in political, administrative and fiscal arrangements between center and states.


The states are the revenue earners of the country, but when the distribution of grants arises, the center behaved as it is giving alams. With this policy the Congress government is currently reduced to be in power in just nine states (Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Andra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram) Where the party enjoys the majority of its own. Whereas in other six states (Assam, Uttrakhand, Goa, J&K, Kerala, and Maharashtra) it shares power with other regional partners. In remaining states and Union territory the Congress is in opposition.


In view of the reasons as laid down above, at different periods of time, because of different reasons, a number of regional parties were established such as Biju Janta Dal in Orrisa, RJD and Samta Party in Bihar, Samajwati Party and BSP in U.P, Shiv Sena and NCP in Maharashtra, Telegu Desam in A.P, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, AGP in Assam and many more. These parties gave an impression that they only could solve the regional issues related to identity, culture, language, and development of OBCs and minorities. Initially the regional parties emerged as the serious contenders only in state assembly elections but very soon they posed serious political challenge to established national parties. In 80s and 90s there was a phenomenal growth in the number of regional parties contesting the Lok Sabha elections, and as many as 370 political parties contested 2009 Lok Sabha elections as compared to 117 in 1989 and 55 in 1952 Lok Sabha elections. Of these, national parties contesting the 2009 elections were seven only and national parties contesting 1989 and 1952 Lok Sabha elections were eight. Even the vote share of national and regional parties in Lok Sabha elections have undergone a sea change such as, the vote share of Congress dropped to 28.6% in 2009 Lok Sabha elections from 48% in 1984 Lok Sabha elections, whereas the vote share of all the regional parties put together including BSP have gone up to 34.6% in 2009 Lok Sabha elections compared to 11.2% in 1984 Lok Sabha elections. The increase in the vote share of regional parties have shown the interesting results with respect to representation from rural areas/villages and other backward classes. The MPs from villages in 2004 Lok Sabha elections have gone up to 66% as compared to 47% in 1952 and the MP’s from the towns and the cities have come down to 34% in 2004 Lok Sabha Elections compared to 53% in 1952 Lok Sabha elections. Likewise the representations of other backward casts have gone up to 30% in 2004 Lok Sabha elections from 12% in Ist Lok Sabha Election (1952). Further the Brahman representation in Parliament have come down to 10% in 2004 elections compared to 24% in the Ist Lok Sabha elections (1952).


The above analysis revealed that with the rise of regional parties, rural and OBCs have got empowered. The National party particularly Congress has failed to represent the diversities in terms of religions, languages, regions, cast, class etc and is no more reflection of true mirror of the society. The sense of non-fulfillment of long drawn demands of specific regions, and specific communities led to the emergence of different regional political parties.


The rise in the number of regional parties have increased the political space which in turn expanded democracy in at least three aspects. Firstly Regional parties are seen as carriers of the democratic up-surge involving greater participation by women, tribal’s, dalits, lower casts, minorities, and rural voters. Secondly the regional parties is seen to strengthening the federal polity of India. Thirdly the rise of regional parties have effectively put an end to plebiscitary character of elections based on charismatic leadership. This fact has been more than sufficiently underscored by failure of Rahul and Sonia Gandhi to generate a wave against the regional parties in UP elections. Most of the regional parties derive their electoral strength from the popularity of one local leader available 24x7 and there is always an emotional bond between local leader and the electorate.


The recent UP election boosted the morale of all the non Congress and non BJP political parties with one and all objecting to NCTC (National Counter-terror Centre) taking it as an encroachment on the federal structure of the country. Recently Naveen Patnaik of Biju Janta Dal blew the whistle of formation of “Federal Front” which shall recognize the views of every state and state leadership, as what should be the future federal structure of this country. All the eyes are on the 2014 Lok Sabah elections when it may be neither UPA nor NDA but “Federal Front” led Government, taking the reins of power in Delhi.


“Every election is lesson for us, whether we won or lose. Too many leaders, wrong choice of candidates and Inflations are the reason of Congress defeat,” said Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi on UP election results. The fact is that there was no leader between the Rahul Gandhi & the UP voters, in whom the OBC’s and minorities had faith that their political aspirations would be addressed. The minorities (Muslims now with 42 MLA’s in SP), has the reason to put their weight in favour of Samajwadi Party, as how could the promise of 4.5% reservation appeal them in the back drop of Congress led UPA Government having pushed in the parliament, three bills “The Direct Code Bill 2010”, “Wakf Amendment Bill 2010” and “The Right to Education Act 2009”, which raised a cause of concern, as these would have adverse effect on number of minority institutions.


With the changed political situation, for the Congress, it is a time to change or otherwise they would end up the “India shining” way.


[Ab Qayoom Khan (IFS) Rtd. is presently Member of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat. He can be contacted at qayoomkhansnn@yahoo.co.in]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on March 23, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on March 23, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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