The wheels of nationalism spun by the BJP for a while are turning to reveal the real face of Indian regionalism and federalism. As the old polity unravels, the BJP is finding itself isolated more and more while its rivals discover a new thread to bind them together.
Chandrababu Naidu's decision to walk out of the NDA and move a no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government should not be seen in isolation. It is the expected denouement of the perennial struggle between a pan-India party and regional satraps. Whenever the pan-India party, in this case, the BJP, tries to subsume the identity of regional players and ignores the pressures of federalism, a counteroffensive becomes inevitable. Indian politics has yet again entered that phase.
The TDP, one of the BJP's oldest allies, has hit back because it had no other option. It was pushed into a corner by the BJP's refusal to consider Andhra Pradesh's demand for special status to compensate the losses because of the state's bifurcation. Naidu's survival depends on his commitment to regionalism, allegiance to the interests of his own people and state. His agenda is different from the ambitions and plans of the BJP. A divorce was inevitable.
Notice also how every regional leader is now itching to revolt against the BJP. Mamata Banerjee, Chandrasekhar Rao, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Naveen Patnaik and even Uddhav Thackeray are ready to counter the BJP's aggression with their brand of regionalism. In this new polity, where the BJP is claiming to put India-first, albeit, through questionable slogans, the counter war cry of 'my-state-first' is rising to a crescendo.
The coming together of unlikely allies in Parliament on the issue of special status to Andhra is symbolic of what would happen when the General Elections are held in 2019. If the Congress, TDP and YSR Congress can drink from the same well, expect sworn rivals to come together to take on the BJP after testing the waters on the special status issue.
It is clear that nobody in the Opposition wants an election yet. Even if a no-confidence motion is debated in Parliament, the BJP would easily muster the numbers.
But, the Opposition is putting the ruling party on notice. It is telling the BJP that the regional leaders are ready to unite to bring the NDA down.
It is 1989 once again for Indian politics. Back then, sworn enemies and rivals — the Left and Right had propped up VP Singh – had united to keep the Congress out. Like in 1989, the highlight of this emerging trend is that there may not be a big pan-India alliance or even one coalition.
Modi's rivals may arrange themselves in various formations, state by state, region by region, maximising their chances of beating the BJP. They may think national, but act local.
The idea of pitting regionalism against the BJP's brand of politics was first tested, ironically, by another national party. If you have been following Karnataka closely, you would have noticed that the Congress has given up all pretensions of being a pan-India party. In Karnataka, its chief minister Siddaramaiah has donned the garb of a politician dedicated to the interest of his state, creating its own flag and arguing for Lingayat as a separate religion.
As regionalism becomes the theme, a lot can happen in Indian politics over the next few months. As every state stands up for its own interests, watch out for BJP allies like Nitish Kumar who have been sitting silent in spite of their earlier demands for special packages and status. Their loyalty to the BJP in an evolving milieu of state-first will soon come under serious pressure. Anybody with divided loyalties would require a lot of dexterity and resolve to continue in the BJP's fold.
As for the elections, the game is now wide open. In every state, the BJP might end up facing a powerful regional alliance, either between local parties or with the Congress as part of it. If this happens, the electoral map of India might look different in 2019 with Modi's rivals joining hands to consolidate the anti-BJP vote and trying to turn the contest bipolar. Winning India with a 31 percent vote share, like in 2014, may no longer be viable for the BJP.
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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2018 15:47:49 IST