Regional political parties in india s. Bhatnagar pradeep kumar

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ESS ESS Publications


NEW DELHI-110002


Panjab University D.C.C. Publications—4

First Published 1988 © Editors

Rs. 150.00

ISBN : 81-7000-098-x

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List of Contributors

1. K.R. Bombwall: Formerly Professor of Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar and Kashmir University, Srinagar(J&K). Presently residing at 74, Housing Board Colony, Ambala Cantt-133001.

2. B. Rahamathulla: Reader, Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh - 202001.

3. Anuradha Dutta: Reader, Department of Political Science, Gauhati University, Gauhati.

4. Girin Phukon: Teaches at the Department of Political Science, Dibrugarh University, Dibrugarh (Assam)

5. Haridwar Rai: Professor of Political Science, North Eastern Hill University, Shillbng. Vijay Kumar: Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Bhagalpur University, Bhagalpur.

6. V. Bhaskar Rao: Professor, Department of Public Administration, Kakatiya University, Vidyaranyapuri, Warangal - 506009 (AP.)

7. Pradeep Kumar: Reader, Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh - 160014

8. R. Thandavan: Reader, in Anna Studies, University of Madras, Madras - 600005

9. Vidya Bhushan: Reader, Department of Political Science, Jammu University, Jammu

10. P.S. Verma: Reader, Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh - 160014

iv v


Preface vii

1. Regional Parties in Indian Politics: A Preview: K.R. Bombwall 1

2. Obsolescence of Nationalism: An Appraisal of Autonomy Forces In North-Eastern India B. Rahamathulla 17

3. Growth and Development of a Regional Political Party. The Asom Gana Parishad Anuradha Dutta 29

4. Genesis of Asom Gana Parishad Girin Phukon . 51

5. Jharkhand Party in Bihar Haridwar Red&Vijay Kumar 69

6. Telugu Desam Party V,Bhaskar Rao 81

7. Akali Dal in Punjab Pradeep Kumar 107

8. AIADMK in Tamil Nadu: Its Emergence and Unprecedented Growth R. Thandavan 131

9. The All Jammu&Kashmir National Conference Vidya Bhushan 167

10. Muslim United Front P.S. Verma 185

11. Index 201

vi vii


The present volume does not claim to be a pioneering effort in the field of regional politics. It is also not a comprehensive exercise to explore the nature of the regional political parties in India. The objective of bringing out this modest anthology is to put together the efforts of some of the scholars who are interested in the dynamics of the regional political parties. Even though some good works have come up in the last two decades with a focus on state politics or regionalism, they either concentrate on the political dynamics of a particular state or sometimes only on a particular party in a State. More often than not, the rise of the regional parties is seen merely as a consequence or a by-product of regionalism rather than a phenomenon in its own right.


With the breakdown of the "dominant party" system, whatever it meant, the capacity of the Congress party to absorb or contain the various movements and smaller groups has decreased considerably. Even otherwise in a parliamentary set-up, a national political party can come closer to a regional group/party only to a limited extent, and beyond this limit, it may find it extremely difficult to identify itself completely with the regional demands/grievances/idiom etc. This necessarily leaves a gap in Such situations. This can successfully be filled only by the regional political parties which face no dilemma of reconciling the national idiom with the regional populistic idiom.

While there can be various factors that have led to this phenomenon of the growth of regional politicalparties, it seems to be a natural con-Sequence of the operation of the democratic system based on adult franchise in multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-Iinguistic


society like India. The background of the lop-sided economic development (call it capitalistic or of any other variety) provides, a strong base to these inter ethnic and inter-cultural conflicts.

"It seems that most of these grievances which today provide a fertile soil for the growth of regional sentiments (a regional political parties were not entirely not absent in the initial years of the Republic but the post-partition climate kept them underneath the main national cur-rent for quite sometime. The relatively unorganised nature of these regional groups/parties and their inarticulation in the early years of our freedom, can perhaps be ascribed to the genera prevailing circumstances which created a psychological necessity for national unity and security. Even raising of regional issue and demands was seen as a threat to the newly acquired freedom of the country, Naturally this regional groups had to wait for a more congenial political atmosphere which they found know in the more sympathetic way understading of the demands of the the various regions fora better treatment and their clamour for a larger and mor equitable share in the national economic cake.

The regional political parties in the eighties have challenged the near-monopoly position of the Congress in the Indian politics. The rule of the various non-Congress parties (most of which are regional parties) in nearly half the state of the Union is hard fact of today, The Charisma" of national leaders has given way to "Chrismas" of local and regional leaders who claim to represent the interests of their respective regions more effectively and faithfully than their counterparts in the Congress party. This phenomenon however is not new. We had witnessed a somewhat similar situation in the late sixties. Yet eighties are not six-ties.- In the sixties it was mostly the simple opposition Congress that Dals (SVDs) to power most of these were not regional parties and they rather claimed to be national alternative to the Congress, and therefore, even adopted "Congress suffix. In fact, some of them were born only on the eve of the Fourth General elections without any specific programme with the sole motive of capturing power by indulging in all kinds of defections Interestingly most Chief-Ministers, who took over from the Congress Chief ministers in the northern States (to which the phenomenon of non-Congressism was largely confined then). were the ex-Congressmen. On the contrary, what we have particularly witnessed in the eighties is the rise of the parties which claim to have an altogether different programme from the Congress party, and do not necessarily aim at providing a national alternative to the Congress. Indeed,


they are rooted in regional grievances. Some have actually been parties of long standing ,and trace their roots to long drawn regional movements interestingly, some of these regional parties are not necessarily opposed to the congress-centre. They rather adopted a policy of collaboration with it, with or without entering into alliances national Conference Mizo National front All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam etc.)This has given them some stability also. In fact there are parties like the AIADMK/DMK which have ruled over a long period of time. However, there are others like the Jharkhand Party and its various factions which have not yet tasted power, but it seems they have become a force to be reckoned with in their areas. What is. therefore. important is not their electoral strength but the legitimacy that they have acquired in the political system. These parties are no longer dismissed by the Congress as simply "anti-national". On the contrary, the ruling party has come to terms with some of them, thereby imparting Iegiti-macy to their aims and objectives.

The present volume is humble attempt to understand some of these developments.


The participant-scholars of this volume were sent a general framework for their convenience. It was also the endeavour of the editors to maintain some kind of a common pattern throughout this volume. However, as is usually the case, the contributors felt relatively free to focus attention on particular aspects of the political parties they are dealing with, taking into consideration what was more significant and crucial from their point of view. This "freedom" naturally has led to some degree of imbalance as far as a common framework is concerned. But in our humble opinion, this is not only not undesirable but is welcome to some extent as it leaves enough scope for accommodating regional variations.

Normally only one contribution has been included on a single regional party but exception has been made in case of the Asom Gana Parishad. Of course, no solid reason can be given for this deviation, yet in case of Asom Gana Parishad, it was partly to focus a little more on a Party which emerged out of a students' movement and finally captured the State Government in the recent past The present collection is confined to those regional parties which are "regional" in the strict sense of the term. In other words, only those parties have been included which don't have pretensions about their national support base. Even though


AIADMK has "All-India" prefix, there seems to be no illusion about its regional character. However, the parties which are neither "national" nor "regional" in terms of their electoral support base, or, in other words, the parties which have been rightly termed by Professor K.R. Bomb-wall as "Cross-regional parties" (see his article in the present volume), have not been considered for discussion in this collection. Thus parties like the Lok Dal, BJP, CPM, etc. have been kept outside the purview, even though they draw their electoral strength from some regional pockets. Also there are some smaller groups, or "border line case", which have been excluded. These include the Sikkim Sangram Parishad of Nar Bahadur Bhandari, Bhim Singh's Panther Party in Jammu, Subhas Ghising's Gorkha National Liberation Front in West Bengal, the Plebiscite Front in Jammu and Kashmir, the Telengana Praja Samiti of Andhra Pradesh, the Shiv Sena of Maharashtra, the Kerala Congress of Kerala and many splinter groups of various otherwise well-established regional political parties. In fact some of these like the GNLF may not be even political parties in the strict sense of the term. The reason of their exclusion is two-fold: One, many of them are too small and too short-lived to deserve attention here; Two, their inclusion would have made the present volume too big to focus any meaningful attention on the phenomenon of regional parties. Actually, all cases of regional demands, in whatever form, result in the formation of regional groups or miniscule regional parties. The inclusion of all these groups/parties and their various fragments would perhaps be closer to a discussion of regionalism rather than regional parties. Even though the two are related, yet they are not the same. Still in view of the importance of these regional (splinter) groups in the North-East India where they are particularly in abundance and where they have actually exercised immense political influence by way of successfully challenging the Congress Party (the MNF in Mizoram, the TUJS is Tripura etc.), a separate article has been included on these groups of North East India.

Finally, no effort has been made to include independent contributions on the various factions or split-away groups of the regional parties. Thus, the different Akali Dals, the National Conferences, the Jharkhand Parties etc. have not been given separate treatment except their mention in the main articles.

We hope the enlightened readers will excuse us for the shortcomings and will give us their considered opinions so that we can benefit from this modest effort of ours.



The preparation of an edited volume is the final product of the collective efforts of a number of persons. More than anyone else, it is the contributors of various articles/papers who constitute the real soul of the book. They deserve our profound thanks. We are also grateful to Professor S.S. Chib who took pains to go through the manuscript so meticulously. Besides, we have a word of appreciation for Mr. Varinder Anand who prepared the index of the book, Mr. Hari Ram Sharma who read the proof pages, and Mr. Bikram Singh, Ms. Kusum Lata and Anil Sharma who typed the manuscript and M/s Ess Ess Publications who made the efforts of both the contributors and the editors see the light of the day.

Chandigarh 13 May 1988

S. Bhatnagar Pradeep Kumar

xii 1


K.R. Bombwall

A Regional Perspective

No academic endeavour to analyse or evaluate the dynamics of Indian politic today can be valid if it ignores what may be described as the regional perspective and fails to take adequate account of the increasingly critical role played by regional political parties. Some regional par-ties, such as the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazagham), Shiromani Akali Dal and National Conference (Jammu and Kashmir) predate or emerged soon after the country's independence. Others like Telugu Desam and Asom Gana Parishad are recent arrivals on the political scene. Currently in six of India's twenty-five states - Mizoram, Assam, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu - regional parties are in power. But for the imposition of president's rule in May 1987, the Akali Dal (Longowal) may well have been running the government in Punjab today. The June 1987 election to the Haryana legislative assembly saw a remarkable upsurge of regional consicousness in the state and the 'injustice' done to Haryana became a potent poll issue. One would, in fact, be hardly surprised if Lok Dal (Bahuguna) which rode to an unprecedented electoral triumph on the strength of an aroused Haryanvi psyche, were to develop a distinctly regional orientation. Depending on how the tussle between the two Lok Dal factions proceeds, it may even end up as a regional party. Evidently, regional parties have become and bid fair to stay as a prominent and durable feature of India's political landscape.

This development is natural and may well have been anticipated in a vast and vieragated country like India, pre-eminently a country of regions 1 Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam ('Kamrup' of protohistory) Bengal, Maharashtra, the Punjab: these are no mere territorial fragments of an undifferentiated land mass or just administrative units of a political behemoth. The combined alchemy of history, language, culture and economy has given a unique identity2 to each of these regions


and each of them has become the homeland of a distinct ethno-national community3. The Iinguistic reorganisation of states in 1956 and subsequent years severed mainly to bring their territorial boundaries in closer alignment in their socio cultural coordinates. As a rule, therefore, a linguistic state is "not only a major administrative unit but also a form of national statehood 4".

It has been necessary to state what should be taken as obvious because not only politicians but the print media - and largely, even the academia - have taken their time coming to terms with regionalism which, in essence, denotes a territorially based identity consciousness rooted in the shared language and culture of people living on a more or less compact territory. There is, however, a receding but nonetheless continuing tendency to conceptualise regionalism in negative terms as narrow "pro-vincialism' or 'parochialism] which leads to exclusiveness and separatism. In other words, it is viewed as a fissiparous force capable of hampering and, perhaps, disrupting the ongoing process of nation-building in India. This attitude was reflected in the reluctance and reservations with which the country's political leadership responded to the persistant and mounting demand for a radical redrawing of the political map of India on the basis of language. The attitude received reinforcement from scholarly words like Selig S. Harrison's India, the Most Dangerous Decades, which grossly overstressed the dis-integrative potential of regional identifications5.

That the tendency to equate regionalism with casteism and communalism as factors which enfeeble India's national unity persists is evident from uncritical comments such as this : "in the subsequent (i.e. following the linguistic reorganisation of states) phase, linguism and regionalism were as disturbing as communalism6". As a recent study points out, "regionalism in Indian politics has generally been regarded as anti-system, anti-federal and against the basic interests of a well-integrated. and well-developed polity7".

The problem arises from a popular but unwarranted assessment of regionalism as necessarily antithetical to what may be called pan-Indian nationalism. The assessment is flawed on three counts. For one thing, it is based on a monolithic concept of nationalism and, as a corollary, on the belief that every nation must find lodgement in a sovereign state of its own. For another, it tends to fly in the face of the empirical reality that nationalism, no less than regionalism, is liable to chauvinistic and aggresive aberrations. Further, regionalism is integral to a poly-ethnic mega-state like India. In any case, regionalism is "the heart of India's


historic pluralism8". It is not, in itself, a limiting sentiment. As the States Reorganisation Commision noted, "regional loyalties do not demand that other loyalties should be eliminated9" .Besides, regionalism can be functional in complex political system such as ours and can make a positive contribution to-wards expanding the base of participatory democracy. According to Yogesh Atal10.

Regionalism advances the cause of participatory culture it helps people articulate their demands and provide inputs into the political system. As long as language and relational ties do not terminate at a single point, regionalism will fail to generat isolationism... Competitive regionalism in not insular in character. The reglonalists continued orient themselves to the national system.

A region by definition, implies a larger polity of which it is a part. Regional alliances and aspirations can, therefore find articulation and fulfilment in the framework of the wider polity. They may even acquire an autonomous or quasi autonomous status within this framework. Regionalism can and, in fact, does put to the test the political system's mediational, moderating and accomodative capabilities. It is however, not a source of exclusivism and exclusionism and is certainly not a first step forward towards secessionism. There is no umbilical cord linking one to the other. Indeed, secessionism is an entirely different kettle of fish. In so far as it aims at a withdrawal from a political system and, more often than not, employs violence as its instrument of action, it crosses the threshold of politics and becomes a negation of regionalism. No secessionist group operates as a regional party. On the contrary, it operates outside and beyond the arena of party politics.

Inevitably, part of the opprobrm that regionalism seems to have gathered gets rubbed off on regional political parties which provide the channel through which territorial identities find expression and the aspirations and demands of regional communities are articulated and aggregated. Like regionalism, they too are often condemned as anti national11. The starting point of an objective study of regional parties must, therefore, be to discard the pointless regionalism - nationalism dichotomy.

What is a Regional Political Party?

So much, then, for the context in which regional parties have emerged and proliferated in India. We can now address the question: What is a regional political party? The term is used with considerable looseness as an omnibus designation for all manner of political formations. The generally accepted distinction between national' and regional parties,


legitimised though it is by the Election Commission, is rather unsatisfactory. Insofar as the character of a party is determined by the number of States in which it has some electoral support the percentage of votes it polls in the state assembly and Lok Sabha elections, an element of instability is introduced. A national party may, over time, shrink into a state party and mutatis mutandis, a regional or state party may spread out and get promoted to the status of a national party. It is suggested that a three-tier classification - all India, cross-regional and regional par-ties - would be less ambiguous and more stable. It is suggested, further, that a regional political party Properly so-called, must satisfy three specific criteria.

The criterion must, naturally, be the territorial differential By its very nature, a regional party restricts its area of action to a single region which, in the prevailing Indian situation means a state. A party which extends its organisational network and electorial concerns over more states than one becomes cross-regional and, in proportion to its territorial extension, its regional commitment gets diluted since it may have to sort out the conflicting interests of its various state units. On the contrary, a cross-regional party does not have an exclusively, or even predominently, regional commitment per se though no political party, cross regional or all- India, can always be indifferent regional pressures. At times, and particularly in respect of electorally sensitive area specific issues, every party is prone to swim with the regional tide. Our best example of a cross-regional party is the communist Party of India (Marxist)CPI(M).At the moment it controls three states Tripura in north-east, West Bengal in the east and kerala in the South. It is particularly well-entrenched in West Bengal having won three assembly polls (1977,1982 and 1987) in a row. The party has a noticeable presence in a few other states, such as the Punjab, while in the rest, especially those in the Hindi heartland, its electoral support is marginal or nonexistent. The Communist Party of India - CPI - falls in the same category even if it cannot claim a single state as its bastion. It is nevertheless a cross-regiona party since, its electoral appeal is thinly but firmly spread over several states. Similarly, some other left parties like Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party and Peasants and Workers' Party which have achieved some sort of a toe-hold in more states than one are cross-regional rather than regional parties as they lack regional specificity which, as we have seen, is the hall-mark of a genuine regional party.

Before its constituents fell apart in 1979, the erstwhile Janata conglomerate


was an all-India party. Even though its electoral strength lay primarily in the states north of the Vindhyas, it had a varyingly thin sprinking of support in the four southern states. What remains of the Janata after its fragmentation can only be categorised as a cross-regional party. It is politically effective in only one state - Karnataka - but has a sizeable following in some others, such as Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Whether or not its two factions are able to re-unite, Lok Dal remains a cross-regional party with a fairly strong base in a number of states, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar. Another cross-regional party, Bhartiya Janata Party is essentially, a party of the north. It enjoys considerable and committed (almost entirely Hindu) support in several states of the Hindi belt - Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It has not so far succeeded in its determined endeavour to cut across the north-south divide but it must be noted that it has made a significant beginning in Kerala where it has been able to put together a workable organisational infrastructure with a growing and dedicated cadre. It may be noted, in passing here, that the proposition that opposition parties - that is parties other than the Indian National Congress are, in effect, regional parties because they have regional pockets and, on specific issues, take regionalist positions is hardly tenable12. Thus, we are left with the Indian National Congress - Congress (I) - as the only archetypal all India party.

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