In a significant statement on the role of regional political parties in Indian politics, Union Finance Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley today said regional aspirations don’t weaken the country, but strengthen the regions and nation as a whole.
Noting that the regions of the country have given birth to some strong leaders with a national outlook, he favoured a study into politics of National Conference founder and Jammu and Kashmir’s tall leader Sheikh Abdullah.
“If you look at the cross sections of the country..some of our tallest leaders have been born in these regions. If you look at Jammu and Kashmir…my party and I have disagreed with him…But I can’t deny that Sheikh Abdullah was a very tall leader. Some studies into his politics will be necessary,” Jaitley said after releasing a book on Kerala Finance Minister and Kerala Congress(M) leader K M Mani.
Saying that he belongs to a party which in its earlier avatar in the 1950s and 1960s was more inclined towards a unitary structure, the BJP leader hailed the ability of leaders like Abdullah, Shiromani Akali Dal leader and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and DMK chief and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minster M Karunanidhi in connecting with the people and throw up to the idea of regional aspirations.
“If you look at Punjab, at the age of 88, Badal for the fifth time is Chief Minister. You can see these kind of experiments. Jyoti Basu had a very long term. Karunanidhi had several terms,” he said.
“It is not necessary. You can be opposed to them, you can agree or disagree with them. But they have the ability to connect with their people and throw up to that idea of the regional aspiration.”
“And therefore a new political equation has come into India where we have to realise that regional aspirations don’t weaken the country. They strengthen the regions and the strong regions have constituted a strong India,” Jaitley said.
The FM said though the BJP has its own majority to rule the country, the party chose to constitute a coalition government as it wanted that the regions be represented.
“There have been illustrations…including the present government at the Centre. My party has a majority in its own strength. We still run a coalition government because we want regions to be represented. And in the process, the regional parties also acquire a national outlook,” he said.
He said if a member of a regional party becomes a Defence Minister or an Industry Minister of the country, then his party and region also integrate its own outlook with the larger national interest.
Jaitley said that in the last 20, 30 years, “we are graduated and today we are the biggest supporters of federalism.”
He said this is not a sudden change which has come about.
“This change has come in the very character of India. In 1947 we became Independent. Our principle challenge was how to keep the sovereignty of India,” he said, adding it was towards the latter part of 1960s a spurt of regional politics came up.
“Some people felt that this may be very dangerous and slowly we realised that now there is no longer a threat to sovereignty,” he said.
Jaitley also said there is no concentrated power in a democracy.
“There is a spread of political power. Today the Central government has power, state governments have also have power, municipalities and panchayats also have power.
“The opposition also has a power, civil society has a power, media is strong, judiciary is strong, there is a spread of power in the system and therefore, all other instruments which exercise that power, you have to recognise the space to be provided to them,” the Finance Minister said.
Jaitley released the book ‘K M Mani a Study in Regionalism’, on Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani authored by journalist K Govindankutty.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien and Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala were present at the function.