The Telegraph
Monday , March 10 , 2014
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Regional or national: Battle over Modi on debate stage

(From left) Prasenjit Bose, Basant Kumar Choudhary, Harivansh, Manoj Jha, Prem Chandra Mishra, The Telegraph resident editor Devdan Mitra, Barkha Dutt, Meenakshi Lekhi, moderator Sankarshan Thakur and Alok Dhanwa at The Telegraph Bihar Debate 2014 at Maurya on Sunday. Pictures by Deepak Kumar

Experts from different backgrounds deliberated on whether regional parties have the vision to lead India. Excerpts:

Harivansh (for)

National consciousness can be built based on regional consciousness only. Karpoori Thakur’s social model started in Bihar but it was adopted by all other states.

The midday meal scheme was started in Tamil Nadu by the MGR government but later all state governments adopted it. Several such successful regional models were adopted across the country. Gandhiji’s Champaran movement started in Bihar but laid the foundation of the freedom struggle. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel started the peasants’ movement in Bardoli (Gujarat); later it became a part of the freedom struggle.

The Bihar government, led by a regional party, has managed to contain the Naxalite violence.

Prem Chandra Mishra (against)

The national parties’ vision is pan-India and they have attracted people across the country. The national parties’ visions are people-oriented and not confined to a particular caste, region or religion.

The Union governments run by the national parties have contributed to the overall growth of the country. The vision of a true national party extends from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

The Naxalite violence has gone up in states ruled by regional parties. Many a time, regional parties have adopted policies, which are not good for the society. One such example is the Bihar government’s decision to open liquor shops in each and every panchayat or village of the state.

Basant Kumar Choudhary (for)

While the vision of the Congress has always been dynasty politics, the vision of the BJP is to change history by spreading communal tension. This cannot be the vision of any country. After Nehru, many asked: “What after Nehru?” But then the country went on and is still going forward.

The Congress itself is an example of regional leaders in the form of Gandhiji and Dadabhai Naoroji. Indira Gandhi didn’t have a regional concept and hence the country saw the Emergency.

I congratulate Modi for overpowering national leaders despite being a regional leader. If a party has to develop, first the focus should be on regionalism, and only then they can attain nationalism.

Alok Dhanwa (against)

One needs to have a rational approach to run the country. Indira Gandhi’s move to nationalise India’s banks got support from all parties.

Prasenjit Bose (for)

The debate must be looked in the context of elections. The BJP in 2004 launched the “India Shining” campaign that was far away from reality and now after 10 years of rule at the Centre, the Congress, especially in the last two years, seems to have surrendered even before the battle has begun. It allowed reckless theft of natural resources. Should we allow this to continue, leading to joblessness, unemployment, price rise and rupee depreciation?

People cannot forget the 2002 riots. We have to recall Muzaffarnagar riots. Sikh riots and Babri Masjid were not the handiwork of regional parties. Tell me how Narendra Modi’s economic policy is different from the Congress’s?

Regional parties are emerging as a new force but I would not give a blank cheque as there are instances of dynastic politics beginning in the RJD too.

Meenakshi Lekhi (against)

All speakers agree that Narendra Modi is the answer to all questions. People know that Modi was a regional leader who has emerged as national leader now. Regional parties are confused and now they are confusing people. The word regional parties itself says that they are not “national”.

Voices have been raised against 2002 riots of Gujarat from time to time from that place where Bhagalpur riots occurred. But from 2002 to 2014, no riot took place in Gujarat against 5,500 cases of riots across the nation. No one talks about them. Regional parties have grown with the help of the Congress — be it in Jammu and Kashmir or Bihar.

Manoj Jha (for)

Caste, religion, region. When we conceptualise India, we do think about these things and regional parties bring with them the fragrance of all these aspects, which national parties don’t bring with them. We can’t leave these issues to the two national parties of this country, as they don’t have understanding of these issues like the regional parties have.

If we have rainbow democracy, it is because of the regional parties, which have added multiple colours from their side. The national parties have so far not cared for the issues plaguing certain regions. It is again the regional parties, which have given the successful governance models and service delivery models. The national parties have just copied them.

Barkha Dutt (against)

Have regional parties provided alternatives to the BJP and the Congress? They have not. They only tend to cannibalise each other and cut each other’s votes. So they don’t have the vision to lead this country.

If we look at history, we would find no progress in the seat share of the regional parties. In 1998, their seat share was 41 per cent and even today their seat share is only 41 per cent. Though their votes have increased, they have not been able to increase their seat share.

There is not even one example of a non-Congress or non-BJP party that has completed its five-year-term of governance at the Centre. I also don’t find ideological loyalty among regional parties. For example, Ram Vilas Paswan in 2012 termed BJP a “Bharat Jalao” party but in 2014, he termed Narendra Modi “the perfect PM material”.