Regional players: Going, going, gone...

Last Updated: Thu, May 22, 2014 09:24 hrs

Indian politics at the national level has been undergoing drastic changes.

In a way it could be divided into three eras. A look at them…

1947-89: This is the era of a monopoly. From 1947-77 only one party ruled. Nobody else had a chance. The Congress stormed all elections quite comfortably. Even in the 1967 one where it faced its toughest battle, it romped home with 283 seats when the half-way mark was 261.

The Janata Party also won a comfortable 345 seats. Had it stayed together and performed decently, then it may have won 1982 and India would have entered a two-party era. However that was not to be and the Congress was back with a bang in 1980.

When the Congress won a whopping 414 seats in 1984, then most people would have thought that the party’s hegemony would continue indefinitely, but its 1989 defeat changed that.

1989-2008: This is the era when the ruling party was at the mercy of regional and other national players. The Centre was always on its toes wondering when the next no-confidence motion would floor them.

The 1989 Janata Dal Government survived on two crutches: the BJP and the Left. It was toppled in 1990. Chandra Shekhar quit as Prime Minister before being toppled. PV Narasimha Rao may have completed 5 years, but was on his toes whenever a trust vote came.

In fact the JMM bribery scam is one of Rao’s biggest lows.

AB Vajpayee was brought down in 13 days. HD Deve Gowda lasted a year and so did IK Gujral. Sonia Gandhi tried to become Prime Minister, but missed by one Lok Sabha seat. Vajpayee came again and lasted just 13 months.

Vajpayee’s third term may have lasted the full term but the first half was extremely shaky. In 2004 when many experts expected the BJP to become stronger, they crashed instead and the Congress came back.

When Manmohan became PM, the stock market crashed and everyone expected the government to fall in six months to two years.

When the Left Front withdrew support over the Nuclear Deal in 2008, everyone thought the government would fall and the mandate would get fractured even more and the dependence of regional players to get even more.

2008-now: However nothing of the sort happened. The Congress finished its term without anyone daring to bring the government down. In 2009, the party got 206 seats and when the Trinamool Congress withdrew support it didn’t make the slightest difference.

The Congress behaved dictatorially and no regional party ever dared to bring the government down. In the 2014 polls, the BJP got 282 seats and the marginalization of the regional leaders was complete.

If Prime Minister Narendra Modi does a decent job, he will be re-elected in 2019. If there is a major disaster, then it will be the Congress which will be set to reap the anti-incumbency wave. The problem is that the benchmarks have been set.

The Congress completed 5 years with 145 seats.

The BJP completed a term with 182 seats.

In fact the process started in 1989. Here’s the combined Lok Sabha seat share of the Congress and the BJP after the general elections…
1989: 282. 1991: 364. 1996: 301. 1998: 323. 1999: 296. 2004: 283. 2009: 332. 2014: 326.

What this means is that since 1989 even if all the other parties in India got together, then they would never be able to form a government. Since 1991, the Congress and the BJP have been consistently the No. 1 and the No. 2 parties.

All the regional Prime Ministerial pretenders have bitten the dust. Mayawati (0 seats), Mulayam Singh Yadav (5 seats) and Nitish Kumar (2 seats) are the biggest disasters. Another would be Prime Minister of the 1990s in the form of Laloo Prasad Yadav saw no revival and bagged only 4 seats. Former Prime Minister Deve Gowda got 2.

Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee and ADMK’s Jayalalitha may have got enough seats to lead a Third Front in the 1990s, but they are totally ineffective in the current dispensation. The Third Front may be officially declared dead in 2014.

The Congress had won 2014 in 2009. They threw it away. Similarly Modi has won 2019 in 2014 too. One feels he will be more circumspect and careful this time.