Column | No limit to transborder ambitions of regional parties despite harsh lessons of history

Modi will be more powerful as Cong not serious about politics, says Mamata
West Bengal CM and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee. PTI

Political parties active in a particular region of India find it difficult to replicate their success in other parts of the country. For instance the first attempt of the West Bengal-based Trinamool Congress (TMC) to register electoral success in Tripura came a cropper last week. It was the maiden foray outside West Bengal for Mamata Banerjee's nephew and political heir Abhijit Banerjee, the leader tasked with expansion of the party outside its stronghold. Despite the high-power campaign as well as confrontations with the Tripura police and administration, the TMC could not make a big impact in the municipal elections, which were swept by the ruling party in the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Though Bengali is the principal language in both the states, the last-minute attempt by the TMC failed to garner enough votes.

BJP leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi downwards thanked the voters and BJP workers of the tiny northeastern state for their support, as the party was relieved that its reversal in the West Bengal assembly elections earlier this year had not dimmed the voter support in Tripura. If the TMC had supplanted the CPM and Congress in West Bengal much earlier, the BJP has already made deep inroads into the political base of these two parties in Tripura. But Mamata Banerjee's Tripura managers led by recent entrant Sushmita Deb, a Congress leader who jumped to the TMC, are confident that her new party would be a force to reckon with in the next Tripura assembly elections, as ruling parties tend to win local body polls easily. But the TMC cannot depend on defectors from other parties and has to grow organically within Tripura if it has to succeed.

The coming months would also show whether Mamata's entry into politics in distant Goa would yield satisfactory results in the assembly elections.

The cases of AIADMK and TDP

Many regional parties have displayed transborder ambitions by naming themselves as all-India parties, most prominent being the Tamil Nadu-based All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) which despite its phenomenal success under former chief ministers M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalalithaa has had limited success even in the Tamil-speaking Union Territory of Puducherry, which has also pockets of Malayalam and Telugu speakers.

Jayalalithaa with Modi
Jayalalithaa with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

Further north, buoyed by the sweeping victory of his fledgling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the 1983 and 1985 Andhra Pradesh elections, superstar NT Rama Rao had floated the Bharat Desham in a bid to make political forays beyond the borders of then undivided state, but his appeal never transcended its borders.  

After the separation of Telangana region from the Andhra Pradesh state in 2004, his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu could not succeed in the new state in 2019, despite an alliance with the Congress. Now another Andhra Pradesh-based aspirant Sharmila, sister of present Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, also is trying her luck in Telangana, much to the amusement of K Chandrashekara Rao, the Chief Minister of Telangana and leader of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

The terrain of RPI and IUML

Similarly, two other parties with India in their names — the Republican Party of India and the Indian Union Muslim League — are confined to parts of Maharashtra and Kerala.

The limits of Jat, Yadav leaders

It used to be said of a pair of Chaudhurys and another pair of Yadavs — who were stalwarts of anti-Congress politics since the 1970s —that they could not cross the Yamuna and Ganga rivers just as the Andhra Pradesh leaders cannot extend their sway beyond the Krishna river.

The Chaudhurys were former Prime Minister Charan Singh and former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal who had their fiefdoms in western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, respectively, separated by the Yamuna river, though both belonged to the same Jat community and spoke the same language. But whenever Charan Singh put up his candidates, including his wife Gayatri Devi, in Haryana they did not succeed. Similarly, three generations of Devi Lal family who controlled the Indian National Lok Dal could not hope to woo fellow Jats of Uttar Pradesh. Interestingly, both parties had no success among Hindi-speaking Jats of Rajasthan, who have alternated their support to the Congress and the BJP.  

Mulayam Singh Yadav. FIle photo

Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav and Rashtriya Janata Dal's Lalu Prasad Yadav have given up attempts to become big forces in the neighbouring states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, respectively, despite a similar vote base in their respective terrains.

But cross-border ambition continues among regional parties as another successful chief minister who is trying his luck in other states is Arvind Kejriwal of Delhi, as he fields candidates in Goa, Uttarakhand and Punjab in the upcoming assembly elections. His Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had tasted some success in Punjab as the third force in the 2017 assembly and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, even becoming the recognised Opposition in the assembly. Now on the eve of another Punjab state elections, majority of its MLAs have defected to the Congress, but Kejriwal is unperturbed and is intensively touring the state.

The voters of Goa and Punjab will tell whether the aspirations of Mamata and Kejriwal are worthy of votes. 

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