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Southern regional parties at crossroads


By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

South India has the history of setting up one regional party every decade. The story of strong regional party started with the formation of DMK in early sixties and it captured power in 1967 elections. By splitting that party cine hero turned politician MGR formed AIADMK in 1972. That was followed by the formation of TDP in Andhra Pradesh in 1982 by matinee idol NTR. Former PM Deva Gowda formed his own JDS in 1999 in Karnataka and TRS came into existence on the demand for separate Telangana in 2001. YSR Congress party was floated in 2011.

As on today the oldest and youngest regional parties namely DMK and YSR Congress Party are in power in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh respectively. DMK came to power four months back after being in opposition for a decade. The YSR Congress party has completed two and half years of its rule .The TRS is in power in Telangana for the last seven years while the other three regional parties, TDP, JDS and AIADMK are facing a crisis of survival, the TRS and YSR Congress party is currently shaking because of BJP moves.

The AIADMK, post the death of its charismatic leader Jayalaitha, was struggling to settle the leadership issue and that internal tussle is hampering its aim of grand golden jubilee year of its foundation. The three way pull of the party by its leaders tearing its two leaf symbol.  Sasikala, out from jail after the completion four year punishment in disproportionate assets case, is claiming back the control of the party by self-declaration of herself being  all-powerful general secretary of the party. Sasikala move is resisted by the Coordinator and joint coordinator of the party O.Pannerselvam and Edapadi Palainiswamy, but not jointly. This duo kept the party and AIADMK government moving while Sasikala was in jail. Despite having evolved a power sharing formula between them the two leader failed to gel because of their castes. Tamil Nadu’s projected rationalistic outlook is a façade, in reality that state is highly caste polarized and for its leaders’ community interests override all other interests. It was this caste prioritized politics of AIADMK leaders which is now threatening its survival. The recent local body elections wiped out that part in rural areas. Urban centers being traditional strong holds of DMK, the rout in the coming urban polls will make the AIADMK totally irrelevant.  With the continued feud in AIADMK the party of MGR-Jayalalitha may struggle to gather enough people for their golden jubilee celebrations. DMK chief and current CM M.K. Stalin is cleverly playing his cards through placating some AIDMK leaders and nullifying some other leaders by using state police machinery.

JDS, the once strong regional party of Karnataka, which gave Dave Gowda as Prime Minister is also facing crisis. Post demitting the office of PM, Deva Gowda formed Janata Dal (Secular) in 1999. This three decade old family controlled party, strong in the old Mysore area, is now losing confidence of the Vokkaligas, its core base community, because of its unsuccessful electoral strategies. That party is ever after power ready to join with any party which offers CM post. Not strong on ideology but very strong on the caste based votes, it is becoming difficult for the Dewa Gowda family to retain the party MLAs. They need not be poached as the MLAs are willing defectors for better pastures.  The fact GT Dewagowda, the man who defeated the then Congress party CM Siddaramaiah by a huge margin in the last election, is now jumping into Congress itself indicates the shakiness of JDS boat.

TRS which is in power in Telangana got a shock defeat in the last month held by election where KCR sponsored candidate lost to BJP by a huge margin of over 22 thousand. This is second such shock to KCR and both shocks are administered by BJP. With this defeat in the hands of his onetime close aid because of his arrogant attitude, KCR is now vulnerable for the prospective dissenters. KCR purposefully sidelined his colleagues of the statehood agitation and projected his son, daughter, nephew and other relatives in the power format. The suppressed voices are likely to gather strength despite KCR’s attempt to divert the attention from his dented image to the faults of BJP at the Centre.

In the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh the two regional parties are bitter enemies. Now in power YSR Congress party is bent on hitting TDP and its chief Chandrababu Naidu at every opportunity. TDP is has lost 2019 assembly elections and all the subsequent rural and urban local body and its declining popularity is evident.  How long Chandrababau Naidu can keep his flock together and fight the might of the government machinery employed by the CM Jaganmohana Reddy is to be seen. Having helped YSR Congress to show TDP and its leader Chandrababu his place the BJP has cleverly started its game to tame Jaganmohana Reddy. Amit Shah who came to chair the southern state council at Tirupati spared some time for his state party unit. The direction given to the Andhra Pradesh BJP is to politically fight Jagan. That Jagan as CM is in vulnerable position because of his failed handling of finances. He turned the state of Andhra into almost a bankrupt state with his excessive, unproductive freebies and is now at the mercy of Modi lead central government. That Jagan is mortally afraid of the CBI and ED cases he is facing is well known and Amit Shah, as Home Minister, can play a critical role in deciding the trial in those cases. The very thought of BJP at Centre turning vindictive from the present benevolence is making YSR Congress and its leader Jagan jittery. The political game of BJP is on in both the Telugu speaking states.

The vulnerability of the southern regional parties is to be exploited by BJP for its entry into South India. Whether these southern regional parties succumb or fight back is to be seen.

(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at duggarajusrinivasarao@gmail.com)


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