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KERALA-Learning the Strengths of Regionalism

Learning the Strengths of Regionalism E Balachandran A PALL of gloom and consternation replaced the enthusiasm usually visible in this politically conscious state during the election time, as the people noticed that because of the timidity and ineptitude of the political leaders, Kerala has been lagging behind in national politics. One hears the names of politicians from all over India playing vital roles in national politics, but Keratites are nowhere to be seen, It is a fact that Kerala politicians lack the cunning and competence to indulge in manipulative politics, because back home, unlike in other states, the going is smooth. But when it is seen that Kerala plays no role in deciding the direction of the national politics, people feel frustrated, Kerala's 20 MPs belonging to CPM, Congress(I), CPI, RSP, JD, Muslim League and Kerala Congress in the outgoing Lok Sabha supported the UF government at the centre, yet Kerala had no proportional representation in the ministry. Such neglect has compelled the people to re-evaluate their political priorities. People feel that if Kerala had few powerful regional parties, as in Assam or Tamil Nadu or Andhra Pradesh, its voice would have been more attentively heard and respected, Keralites' interest in national political parties had begun to dwindle since long and that is how coalition ministries began to be formed during the last 40 years. But Keralite, it would appear, did not take the logical direction born out of coalitions, i e, a coalition of only regional and small parties. All the coalition ministries have been under the leadership of either Congress(I) or CPM - both national parties. Indeed, there are few regional parties, but all of them have a caste tag attached to them. There arc no so-called secular, but regional, parties as in, say, Assam. People are therefore reluctant to rally behind these parties, and they now perforce back the national parties, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the chief minister of Assam, whose Assam Gana Parishad (AGP), has only five MPs, is playing a leading role in making or unmaking of the prime minister. N Chandrababu Naidu, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, is playing stellar role in the national politics with only 17 MPs of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP). G M Moopanar, with his 20 Tamil Manila Congress MPs and Karonanidhi, with 17 DMK MPs are also king-makers now. Even the veteran leaders of national parties are playing second fiddle to the leaders of regional parties. The local leaders of national parties of Kerala do not get (he respect they deserve at the national level. When the Congress(I) was in power, even leaders of Congress(I) from the states had to cool their heels in the capital for several days before they could meet the prime minister, N T Rama Rao had said that he was forming TDP to uphold the dignity of Telugu people. Admittedly, when UF came into power, that kind of humiliation ended.

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