Here is why regional parties will be the king makers in the 2019 polls
The collective number of seats won by regional parties has grown 4.6 times from the first Lok Sabha polls to 32 per cent in 2014; and their share increased from 11.2 per cent in the 1984 elections to 46.6 per cent in 2014.
“Most analysts believe neither Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), nor the Indian National Congress will win an outright majority. That means regional and caste-based parties will probably become the king-makers…” the New York Times wrote on February 1, 2019.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, even though the Bharatiya Janata Party won 282 seats—riding high on the ‘Modi wave’—regional honchos like West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa held their sway over their respective States.
The combined strength of regional parties was 212 seats in 2014. And their vote share, too, was almost equal.
When did the regional parties become this strong, you ask?
Well, it all began since the 1984 general elections when the N T Rama Rao-founded Telugu Desam Party (TDP) emerged as the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha. It won 30 seats and became the second largest party after the Indian National Congress (INC).
In the first ten Lok Sabhas, the occupancy of national parties was close to eight out of every ten seats. However, that ratio has shrunk to about six out of every ten seats now.
Meanwhile, the share of seats won by the representatives of regional parties has grown 4.6 times from the first Lok Sabha polls to 32 per cent in 2014. And their share increased from 11.2 per cent in the 1984 elections to 46.6 per cent in 2014.
1996 was the year when it all changed. The regional parties had collectively won 129 seats. Among the prominent beneficiaries were the Shiv Sena, TDP, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK): they have been bagging key ministerial portfolios in all the coalition governments since then.
George Fernandes, the founder of the Samata Party—which was confined to Bihar—became India’s Defence Minister in the second and third terms of the NDA government, headed by the BJP's Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
It looks like 2019 will be incredibly interesting.
In the run-up to this year’s general elections, regional parties have called the shots on forming an anti-BJP alliance (Mahagathbandhan).
In India’s largest state (Uttar Pradesh), the saffron party will face the formidable combination of Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)—a national party with a stronghold in UP.
In Tamil Nadu, national parties like the Congress and BJP are playing second fiddle. The Congress settled for nine seats out of 39 in its tie up with the DMK, while the BJP is the junior-most coalition partner contesting just five seats against seven for Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and 27 for All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).
In Bihar, the Congress, which was once formidable in the state, will only contest nine seats, leaving the remaining to its allies, including the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led RJD, which will contest 20 seats. The BJP will be contesting on an equal number of seats as Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United)—17 each—with the remaining 6 allotted to Ram Vilas Paswan-led Lok Janshakti Party.