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Relevance of regionalism

Announcement of pre-poll tie-up between - the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and the Raijor Dal has put speculations over


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 Feb 2021 2:13 AM GMT

Announcement of pre-poll tie-up between - the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and the Raijor Dal has put speculations over the two new regional parties coming together as unified force to rest. Emergence of a stronger regional front in the upcoming Assembly elections has brightened with this political development. The two parties have also announced in unequivocal terms that they would maintain equi-distance from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). AJP chief Lurinjyoti Gogoi has gone record that his party has also reached understanding on pre-poll alliance with the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC). AJP leaders have also described parleys with Bodoland People's Front (BPF) as 'positive'. The BPF appears to be not keen on sharing any of the 12 assembly seats in Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) even if enters into any pre-poll alliance with AJP and Raijor Dal. Rushing to any conclusion on debut performance of new political parties formed just couple of months ahead of Assembly elections is a challenging task for psephologists. The AIUDF in its debut performance won ten Assembly seats in 2006 and also caused a dent in Congress strongholds among religious minority voters which prevented the grand old party from getting the magic number of 64 in 126-member Assam Assembly. Both the AJP and the Raijor Dal have strong backing of influential organizations like All Assam Students' Union, Asom Jaityatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti. For the two new regional parties, matching the organizational strength of either the BJP or the Congress will not be possible as elections are due in April-May. However, the combined organizational strength of the new regional parties will be a force to be reckoned with which neither the BJP nor the Congress will be able to ignore on the electoral battle ground. In 2016, the BJP came to power by forging rainbow alliance with regional parties including the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), BPF and Ganasakti besides politics forces of the Tiwas and the Rabhas. Presence of the regional parties in the BJP-led coalition government kept the regional aspirations alive and was seen as the balancing force. Over the past five years, the BJP has consolidated its position even in strongholds of the AGP and political organizations of the Tiwas, Rabhas, and the Mishings. Both the new regional parties are pining hopes on support for movement against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 in which they took birth. Strong anti-CAA movement alone will not guarantee translation of the support for the movement into votes. Besides, transferring of votes is often do not happen even after the parties reaching seat sharing and agreeing on common minimum agenda due to reservation of electors over choice of candidates or the promises in common election manifesto. In BTR, the BJP has chosen a new ally in United People's Party, Liberal as BPF was not willing to let its political space eaten up by the Big brother. Political marginalization of the regional parties in the ruling coalition created a vacuum of regionalism that emerged stronger post Assam agitation. Passing of the CAA and vacillation of the AGP over the Act as well dilution of the core clauses of the Assam Accord amplified this vacuum among the supporters of regionalism. The idea of regionalism has undergone perceptible changes post globalization. Therefore, jatiyatabad of eighties in pre-globalization, liberalization period that gave rise to AGP cannot be revived now and people will be wary of experimenting an idea that is fading fast in the globalized world. At the same time, the access to technology, more particularly digital technology and internet has brought opportunities for smaller communities to articulate new ideas of preservation of language, culture, and heritage in a global world. Unless, new ideas of regionalism are articulated, mere rhetoric against nationalist parties is not likely to give rise to a strong regional sentiment in electoral battle which are won by popular mandate and not merely on the strength of organizational base. Despite being strong nationalist party, the BJP won the popular mandate in 2016 by whipping up a strong regional sentiment around the slogan jati, mati, bheti of Assamese and other indigenous communities which are increasingly under threat in the globalized world. Competing identity movement of smaller communities create the space for nationalist parties to articulate promise, schemes, projects to woo their electoral support. Articulating equal political space for different communities with the spirit of inclusiveness has the potential to give rise to a strong new idea of regionalism against the politics of exclusion that emanates from majoritarianism. It is however easier said than done. Regionalism will be relevant in Assam only if it is rearticulated with innovative ideas and approach in the changing context of the political economy of the globalized world.

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