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The Fate of Indian Federalism After BJP’s Big Win


(By Ashok Tankasala)

Does the recent ‘big win’ for BJP, a national party in the recent Lok Sabha elections spell an end to federalism in the country?

The severe drubbing received by several regional parties except for DMK in Tamilnadu has prompted commentators to think on such lines.

While in Tamilnadu the DMK heading a coalition has made a clean sweep of Lok Sabha seats, defying an evident ‘Modi wave’ elsewhere in the country, in Odisha the BJD withstood the wave for Assembly polls but yielded considerable ground in the sphere of Lok Sabha.

Considering these obvious facts will it not be opportune to agree with those commentators who believe that nationalism is on the rise in the country even as the federalism which only looked well entrenched till yesterday?

Before looking at this question a bit more closely, perhaps we need to note a significant statement made by Amit Shah, the national president of BJP at the first parliamentary meeting of his party at Delhi after its electoral triumph.

He cautioned his members that the BJP could be considered to have achieved the final victory “only when it wins in all the states and wins over all sections of the people”. The key word in this is “all”.

No doubt it is a real statement and could even be dubbed a visionary one. Because the implications of it are multi-fold.

Not just for the party of Shah and also for the debate on federalism. To begin with, the BJP president has implicitly admitted that there are quite a few areas as well as sections of people in the country that have not come into the fold of what his party considers ‘nationalism’ and ‘national party’.

He means they are federal or regional which continue to adhere to their earlier thought processes, visions, and goals. They need to be broken if BJP, a national party, is to become national with a finality.

Now let us delve into the issues of federalism and nationalism at a different level. If some of the regional parties have lost the Lok Sabha elections at different degrees, it is because of some passing developments or due to some fundamental transformation of the Indian society, social forces, regional forces and other elements like economy and culture?

Do they occur in one particular manner just before elections and change overnight by the time of elections? Can one reasonably claim that society, its elements, structure and future visions are so rootless and fragile to change overnight?

Whatever a political leader may feel no sensible observer or social scientist could agree with this formulation. Because the foundations of federalism in In dia are in its diverse society and long history.

They cannot be wished away just because the BJP, a nationalist party, has won a big majority this time. In India, there are a few other national parties too which won or lost quite a few times in the past. They include BJP also.

Thus one has to examine what are the different political and social factors that have helped BJP last time and this time to secure electoral majorities. They are many as political pundits have pointed out.

None of them point to the weakening of the Indian diversities and the existence of federal forces at grass root levels.

They have seen some ups and downs in the past decades due to certain shortcomings of their own and some external factors, similar to the ones faced by national parties.

But that never spelled a doom of those federal forces. What we witness presently is another of such phases.