This is an era of Coalition politics; with no party capable of cutting across caste, creed or regional barriers, to attain a clear majority in Parliament. The result is a government propped up by several smaller parties, the support of each one of which is crucial for its survival.
This critical dependence results in the Governments policies being guided to a large extent by the pressures of the smaller parties. Each years Railway Budget, for example, is guided by the Railway Minister’s desire to ensure welfare first of his native state, Bihar and then of states ruled by allies of the Central Government. This results in total marginalization of smaller, politically weaker states like Uttarakhand. Each year, without exception, Uttarakhand is overlooked in the Railway Budget. An indicator of this neglect is the fact that since independence not a single new town in Uttarakhand has been connected to the Railway Network.
National Parties are too busy looking after politically big states and placating their regional allies to worry about smaller states which do not create a problem for them. In this era of Coalition Politics smaller regional parties hold the key to power and ultimately to Government Policy. Frequently we see MP’s from regional parties like TDP, Akali Dal, JD (U) voraciously pressurizing the Central Government for demands of their states even to the extent of creating a ruckus in Parliament. They use both the print and broadcasting media to hammer in their demands. It is impossible to recall a single incidence when any Uttarakhand MP exerted similar pressure on the government. Has there never been any problem facing our State that agitated our MPs? The reason for this apparent silence is that MP’s of National Parties are muzzled by party discipline, which prevents them from exerting pressure on the Government for Uttarakhand’s benefit.
We in Uttarakhand are proud Nationalists, hence our preference for National Parties. But does being Nationalist means putting your own state behind other states? In a situation of conflict of interests National Parties will never put Uttarakhand’s interest before the interest of Central politics or the interests of other bigger states, say UP. Fear of loosing votes in states like UP will prevent a National Party from giving Uttarakhand its due.
An example of this we saw at the time of creation of Uttarakhand. BJP was the ruling party in Uttarakhand, UP and Center. The bargaining power of Uttarakhand was reduced by the Uttarakhand BJP’s reluctance to ruffle the feathers of Central BJP. The Central Command of BJP, in turn, was worried about annoying voters in UP and so did not pressurize the UP Government to give Uttarakhand its due share and so our state was born an economic cripple, with most of its assets like the Tehri Dam, in the hands of UP. Had any regional party represented Uttarakhand in these negotiations with UP and Center, we would have got a much better deal, as the regional party would not have worried about the impact of negotiations on UP voters nor its bargaining constrained by party discipline.
Thus in this age of Coalition Governments, a party whose interests are limited to the boundaries of a state, is in a better position to serve the people of the state and defend its interest in the Center.
After having said that, one is faced with the stark reality of declining electoral fortunes of UKD, the only regional party of our State. With each election its percentage of vote share has been constantly declining. They led the fight for Uttarakhand and enjoyed mass support at the time of its creation. Seven years down the line and everything seems to be in disarray. Poor party discipline, organizational slackness, bad media management and failure to identify with concerns of an average Uttarakhandi are some of the many reasons contributing to this decline. It is in dire need of an image makeover – from that of a party of agitationists to a party capable of governing. Piggybacking on BJP, as Congress tried on Mayawati is not good long term politics. It is for leaders of UKD to regain the lost confidence of the middle class of our State. Till then we must continue to wait for the “DMK of Uttarakhand”.
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