Parties have been and continue to be prominent features of Indian political life.
Parties in India, imperfectly but discernibly have played an important role in political aggregation, articulation, socialization and participation. Thus, they have been important components of the Indian political system.
Various typologies of political parties in India could be suggested, but basically they consist of the congress party and all the rest. Another possible division between national and regional, state or local parties-Norman D.
Palmer prints out “Most parties are really local or at most regional groupings, often hardly more than the followers of some leader. Such groupings spring up, put up their candidates in a general elections, and disappear quickly, or merge with similar groups or move in and out of electoral arrangements, “sometimes of a weird character.”
Regional parties in state politics are a greater force and they have captured the governmental power from the hands of the all India parties in state like Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Sikkim, Nagaland, Goa, Meghalaya, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
In addition policies they are gradually emerging as a powerful force for example, in the 1977 and 1980 Lok Sabha elections, regional parties won 52 and 35 seats respectively. After the congress split fo 1969, Mrs. Gandhi’s Govt, at the centre had depends on the support of regional parties like DMK.
It is suggested that a regional political party must satisfy three specific criteria. The First 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.
The second criterion of a regional political party is that, topically if articulates and seeks to defend a regionally based ethnic or religion-cultural identity. Thus DMK and ADMK act as the voice arid champions of Tamil cultural nationalism against the inroads of what is perceived as the Aryan imperialism, of the north.
In the third place, it is in the very nature of a regional party to be “primarily concerned with exploiting local sources of discontent on pressing a variety of primer dial demands based “on language, caste, community or religion.” This is so because the electoral destiny of these parties is in separable linked with their respective regions.
The emergence of regional parties in India has a geo- political rationale. India is a continental polity with a wide range of socio-cultural and ethnic diversities. Under conditions of democratic culture, these diversities are bound to and indeed did aspire for political autonomy.
One way of expression of political autonomy in a federation is the formation of regional parties and groups, in order to bargain with the centre for a better for regional development.
In the first two decades of independence the congress party remained in power in the centre, and in most of the states. In a way of its continuous hegemony in the centre, and on most of the states. In a way its continuous hegemony in the centre, led to the neglect of the sentiments of the states.
The congress party increasingly treated its state units, not as autonomous units, but as subordinate branches of the central congress party. This led to a simmering discontent not only within the ranks of the state units of the congress, but also in their support base ant among the people of the state of large.
The control of state affairs by the central leadership for instance in matters of distribution of tickets at election time, formation of ministries, selection of Chief Minister, state planning priorities, location of industries etc. and their style of working and public behaviour towards state leaders, were often arbitrary and not quite democratic.
They complained that their pride’ and ‘dignity’ was hurt. In this situation, it-was not too difficult for an alternative political format to emerge in the shape of regional parties.
In South India, where an early initiative for separate parties was taken, there was also a long suppressed feeling among the leaders and the people that North India, historically, had tried and often dominated the south. The North was portrayed as expansion it hegemonic, even colonial and imperialist in its designs.
Major Regional parties:
There have been three types of regional parties in India. For years the congress dissidents, off and on, formed several regional parties and groups, mostly short lived and often for ad-hoc purpose as a bargaining counter. Examples of this have been the Bangla congress, the Kerala congress, the Utkal congress and the Telengana Praja Samiti.
The second types are tribal parties as focal prints of building a tribal- political identity and as a platform for obtaining more concessions from the centre. They had often talked even of secession from India and demanded complete independence.
Examples of this trend have been the militant movements like the Naga National Council (NNC), the Mizo National Front (MNF) and the APHLC. The third types of regional parties are larger political formations in ethnically culturally and linguistically defined regions like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
These parties are bigger in their composition, well-knit in their organization and more stable in their role as important components of the multi-party system in India.
The Akali Dal is one of the oldest and most successful regionally based political organization in India.
It is an avowedly Sikh Party, whose membership is confined to Sikhs, and which only on the rarest occasions has given its party symbol to non-sikh candidates in an election.
Factionalism in general proved to be the major reason for the birth of regional parties and it is specifically so in the case of the AIADMK. The DMK faced factional problems even before the emergence of AIADMK. The AIADMK accepted ‘Annaism’ as it basic ideology.
The Telugu Desam and the Jharkhand party are also regional political parties. TDP is a personalised party. It is one man’s affairs and he has centralised all powers in his hands. Jharkhand party has remained so far a regional party exploiting the tribal sentiments and having its mass base in the scheduled tribes of choota Nagpur and santhal parganas regions. Its objective is he formation of an Adivasi state.
The National conference is a regional party in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was founded by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, a Kashmiri freedom fighter. His efforts resulted in the development of Kashmiri self-respect and a strong sense of sub- national identity.
The Shiv Sena was formed by Bal Thackeray in the state of Maharashtra. It draws chipiration from the great national hero, Shivaii. It wants to improve the conditions of the Maharashtrians in their own state.
Salient Features of Regional Parties:
The regional parties are more concerned with the interests of certain groups than with the General welfare of the nation. They are limited in their aggregative potential by being identified with the interests of a particular ethnic, linguistic or religious group.
Parochial or regional parties have grown considerably in India since independence many of these differences were, of course, submerged in the national movement.
Frequently middle class politicians exploited parochial sentiments to propel themselves into position of prominence. In certain cases these parties have a dominant influence in a locality or region, but at the national level their impact is limited.
In India pure caste parties are relatively few. However, the areas of influence of those parties which campaign for greater autonomy of a region of linguistic rights of a community is mostly confined to the area Where certain castes and tribes have nevertheless acquired some of their characteristics.
The Jharkhand Party, for instance aims at achieving a Jharkhand state for six million primitive tribals who live in the high plateau of chhota Nagpur.
The Third General Election classified that after the linguistic re-organization of the states the parties which had played up language patriotism had lost their emotional appeal. But the political situation in Assam apparently proves that the linguistic diversity of the Indian union encourages parties to take up linguistic matters from time to time.
Thus, in protest against the Assam state Language Act of 196, the all party Hull Leaders conference was formed to spearhead the demand for a separate Hull state. The tribal leaders succeeded in their objectives. On September, 1968 the Govt, of India announced a plan for creating an autonomous state to be known as Meghalaya.
Linguistic minorities living in various states are also fighting for the protection of their language. Their area of political influence is very marginal, but that does not prevent them from representing their demands with nehemence.
Sometimes they take shelter behind the slogans of more autonomy or administrative re-organisation. The Lok Sevak Sangh, the Karnataka Pran Three Karana Samiti, and the Maharashtra Eki Karon Samiti may be mentioned as examples of linguistic oriented minority parties.
Thus the regional parties are organised on the personality cult. In the beginning they start as parties of pressure. They played the role of that pressure groups play in a political system.
They stand for separate statehood, state autonomy and regional language sometimes they are communal in outlook and plead the cause of certain communities. As political mobilization increases, the role of local parties and independents as well as regionalisation of national parties may increase rather than diminish.
The emergence of increasingly vigorous regional parties in electoral competition with the congress has been a significant catalyst of the ‘participation explosion’. The possibilities for victory at state level, dramatized in the 1967 elections and enhanced by the economic crisis and political disillusionment that supplanted the ‘Indira Wave’ of the early 1970’s have accelerated party efforts to mobilize new base of support and to aggregate a range of varies interests.
The regional parties, at least in coalition, provide a meaningful alternative to congress rule in many states, but it has yet to achieve cohesion at the centre. The regional parties are fragmented and for the most part weak. But they have been instruments for the stimulation of political consciousness and expanded participation.