Updated on: Wednesday, December 15, 2021, 09:16 AM IST

Road to 2024 election all about ambitions of regional parties, writes Sayantan Ghosh

Representative Image
 | PTI

Representative Image | PTI


Every political party has their own dream of expansion. Bharatiya Janata Party and the Indian National Congress are the biggest political parties of India but now the time has come when the regional parties are making it clear that they want to expand.

The void in Indian politics is no more a secret. When you have a persona like Narendra Modi and a massive electoral majority, yes it becomes difficult to believe that there is a void.

The void in Indian politics is not about numbers but ideas. And here comes the ambitions of the regional parties to expand because voids can never be forever. The Hindutva of RSS is indeed expanding. It is becoming more furious, devastating and cruel.

There is no need to believe that this idea is going anywhere. The reason is simple, now Congress is more enthusiastic in pitching an alternative definition of Hindutva sitting at home while its own house is not in order. The need of the hour is for the Congress to start working to bring their own flock together but alas. While the BJP and Congress are busy with defining Hindutva, the regional parties of India have realised that this is the golden opportunity to expand. If not Hindutva then what? The regional parties are giving the answers now.

Starting from Trinamool Congress led by Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee to Aam Aadmi Party led by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Shiva Sena led by Maharashtra CM Udhav Thackrey are showing that there is more to offer than just Hindutva and hyper-nationalism. Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is one of the most experienced politicians of India right now. She has a glorious career as MP, cabinet minister and chief minister. She does not have an all India image but she has political connections, willpower and the hunger to expand.

She along with poll strategist Prashant Kishore is banking on the Bengal model of governance which is based on several welfare schemes. In the last few years, she has introduced several welfare schemes in Bengal like “Lakshmir Bhandhar”, “Kanyasree”, “Ruposree” and many more. Most of the schemes provide financial support to several sections of society. These schemes are also based on the idea of direct money transfer to the citizens. It can be or should be analysed economically but at the end of the day what matters in politics is what the voters think. In the recent election, the citizens of Bengal have brought her to power with a historic majority.

The BJP was defeated, Congress and the Left were washed out in Bengal. People are supporting her welfare schemes. For expansion, Mamata Banerjee is targeting the rebels of the Congress party in several states and directly poaching them. Her next target is Tripura and Goa. Only time will tell the outcome but this politics of poaching is dangerous for sure. Breaking the Congress party and trying to create footprints can be seen as a detrimental practice by an opposition party. The debates on this are already in front of the people but we should not ignore that Mamata Banerjee is offering an alternative idea based on welfare schemes. Similarly, there is Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. He is trying to expand his Aam Aadmi Party in several states like Goa, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

While Kejriwal has a better reach in the Hindi belt due to his linguistic background, he has very less friends in Indian politics. In the last few years, Kejriwal has established a different model of governance in Delhi. His work in strengthening the education system of Delhi has been a success. But along with better education, Kejriwal is also talking about several welfare schemes like free electricity till 200 or 300 units, free bus travel for women, free water and the most recent one is a scheme of direct cash transfer to the women.

There are many criticisms against his kind of politics. On one side Kejriwal's opposition accuses him of offering freebies and on the other side, the liberals believe that he is pitching soft Hindutva. In politics every decision is political and if these ideas bring votes then these should not be disregarded. Arvind Kejriwal is indeed using the void of the Congress party in several states to create his footprints but he is not indulging in poaching politics at a large scale. He has been talking about the fact that AAP will not entertain people from the Congress party if they want to join. Many years back when the idea of economic liberalisation came no one anticipated its success.

When the Congress party brought in the 100 days work scheme no one had a clue about its success. But these ideas changed Indian politics. Under the Modi regime, the ideas stuck to Hindutva and citizens of India deserve to witness ideas of development.

What is dangerous about Kejriwal is normalising of the Hindutva pitch. His silence on atrocities against Muslims has also demeaned his political image and this side of his politics could be a roadblock for AAP's expansion. On the other hand, a political party like Shiv Sena is pitching for a different political idea. They are taking it slow but making it clear that they want to expand beyond Maharashtra. Recently they have won a Loksabha seat in Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The party wants to expand in Goa too. They are pitching gathbandhan politics.

This idea is not a new one in India but amid the massive victory of BJP and weakening of Congress the alliance, politics has taken a back seat. The Shiva Sena is running Maharashtra along with NCP and Congress. Until now this government has stayed strong and that is why they are banking on this idea of alliance politics.

Recently Sena MP Sanjay Raut met Rahul Gandhi has asked him to take the lead and he has also invited Gandhi to meet Sena chief Udhav Thackrey. Followed by this meeting Raut also met Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi who is leading the party in the upcoming UP election. Raut has apparently told the Congress party that Sena wants to fight in some of the seats in UP along with the Congress.

The future of the opposition alliance is unsettled but it's time to look into alternative ideas. Regional parties are not governed from Delhi though most of these parties are supremo centric. However, these parties are trying to expand by offering alternative welfare ideas. India is a welfare state, at the end of the day, the people of the country want welfare and not polarisation of hypernationalism. If these ideas can be brought together then there is an alternative, but how only time can say. But the path towards 2024 can be seen as the time when regional parties are trying to expand based on several important developmental, welfare-centric and political ideas.

(Author is an independent journalist and former policy research fellow at Delhi Assembly Research Center. Views expressed are entirely personal.)

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Published on: Wednesday, December 15, 2021, 09:16 AM IST