Not just Congress, regional parties too face an existential crisis

The Bharatiya Janata Party, after a record-breaking performance in the general elections, is on a roll. The Congress is down and out. The party has once again appointed Gandhi family person at the top after Rahul resigned taking responsibility for the loss.

The party’s alliance government fell in Karnataka. Almost two-thirds of its MLAs joined the BJP in Goa. Its chief whip in Rajya Sabha resigned.

Its senior leader and former Finance Minister Chidambaram has been arrested on charges of corruption. Its opposition to abrogation of Article 370 has not been taken well by the public. It has also been branded anti-national and pro-Pakistan by right wing groups.

The party is facing an exodus of its MLAs in Maharashtra. Its government in Madhya Pradesh is on the edge due to internal fights between rival camps of senior leaders. The party organisation is in disarray and is staring at big losses in the three states of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand where elections are due.

There are reports of no takers for Congress tickets. The BJP is now confident of realizing its dream of a Congress-mukt Bharat.

While the Congress is disorganized, many regional parties are feeling the heat and looking at a bleak future. Regional parties, on an average, have received 49% vote share from 1951 to 2014 and played a key role in formation of government at the Centre in the last 3 decades of coalition era. However, 2019 elections could prove to be a turning point for many of them.

Many parties have not yet recovered from the drubbing faced in the general elections. Samajwadi Party couldn’t better its performance in Lok Sabha despite forming a mahagathbandhan. The BJP made a big dent in the fortresses of TMC and BJD in eastern India. KCR too suffered losses, while Lalu Yadav’s party drew a blank.

2019 Lok Sabha Elections Highlights

  • Regional parties recorded their all-time worst performance in 2019 Lok Sabha elections with 43.1% vote share.
  • They also recorded their second worst performance in terms of seats (187 in 2019 vs 179 in 1991) since the coalition era began in 1989.
  • For the second consecutive term, regional parties have no major role to play in government formation.

Performance of Regional Parties Over the Years


BJP has upped the ante. Many MPs of regional parties are abandoning the ship and jumping onto the BJP bandwagon fearing poor prospects of their parent organisations.

Events after the Lok Sabha elections:

  • TDP suffered a split in Rajya Sabha (4 MPs joined BJP)
  • 10 MLAs out of 13 of Sikkim Democratic Front joined the BJP in the state making it the principal opposition party
  • INLD Rajya Sabha member Ram Kumar Kashyap joined BJP
  • 3 Rajya Sabha MPs of Samajwadi Party have resigned including son of ex-Prime Minister Chandra Sekhar

Most regional parties are family fiefdoms

Most regional parties, whether part of the NDA, the UPA or non-aligned, have become family fiefdoms as detailed below. These parties won 145 seats in 2019 Lok Sabha elections, accounting for 78% of all the seats won by regional parties.

The young voter is not so fond of dynastic politics (at the cost of meritocracy) as explained by the decline of Congress party. Many of these parties now have second or third generation family members at the helm. These family scions are also facing sabotage attempts and lack of cooperation from senior leadership.

Mamata Banerjee is facing heat from the BJP in her backyard and has hired Prashant Kishore as political strategist. The Muftis and the Abdullahs are in detention in Kashmir: hey also don’t have much public support left.

The young scions of Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, Akhilesh and Tejaswi are nowhere to be seen after the elections. It’s a do or die situation for Hemant Soren in Jharkhand. The Chautalas of Haryana have weakened after split.

The Bahujan Samaj Party supremo has inducted family members in key party positions but they do not command the same respect and charisma as Mayawati does. The Gowdas are facing extinction as almost all the family members who contested the polls, lost.

The Pawar family is facing pressure due to exodus; and Ajit has been named in a 25,000 co-operative bank scam. There are reports of two-third MLAs of the Telugu Desam Party ready to join the BJP. Ajit Jogi has been arrested in a fraud case. Ajit Singh’s career is mostly finished.

Corruption cases against many opposition leaders have also weakened them. While charismatic leaders like Mulayam, Lalu, Deve Gowda, Farooq Abdullah, et cetera have passed on the baton to their sons/daughters, the young scions do not enjoy the same public support and are seen lacking in ideas when pitted against the Modi-Shah duo.

Then there are few parties which do not have a clear succession plan, like the Janata Dal United, which has 16 MPs, and the Biju Janata Dal, which has 12 MPs. JDU mostly has members belonging to the erstwhile RJD and may face split after Nitish Kumar retires.

Naveen Patnaik is unmarried and has no clear heir. The party could face disintegration after him. AIADMK has been orphaned after the demise of Jayalalithaa. In the long run it could disintegrate or merge with the BJP.

To sum up, it’s not just the Congress but many regional parties, too, that also face an uncertain future.

Unless they get their act together, raise public issues, and their leaders demonstrate they are career politicians, they face a very real threat.

This article has been first published in Yahoo News.


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