Bengaluru: With Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) banking on regional parties to stitch up their numbers beyond the Hindi heartland states, Elections 2019 is turning out to be the biggest platform for coalition politics.
The resurgence of regional parties and rising instances of identity politics is also heralding an era of pre-poll alliances, forcing the non-BJP and non-Congress outfits to pick a side ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, which is turning into one of the most divisive ones in recent memory.
Those that have resisted the temptation to form an alliance with either of the two power centres, such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana, seem to be keeping their options open for a post-poll alliance.
Given that the calls for a third front have been put to rest, at least for now, regional parties are trying to have a bigger say at the national level. “Regional parties have gained more significance as it has become almost certain that we are headed towards a hung Parliament," said Sumanth Raman, a Chennai-based political analyst.
Alliances with regional parties are most pronounced in the northeast and southern India, where both the BJP and the Congress have limited representations.
Karnataka is, however, an exception.
While the Congress is seeking to regain ground after ceding its dominant position in several states, the BJP is looking to enter new regions with the help of local partners. Insecurities of the local partner, including the fear of being wiped out, is also a factor facilitating alliances.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is hoping that its alliance with the BJP would save it from a crushing defeat in Tamil Nadu. The Congress, on the other hand, with a vote share of just over 4.3% in Tamil Nadu, is hoping to regain some ground riding on the back of a resurgent Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
The H.D. Deve Gowda-led Janata Dal (Secular), or JDS, in Karnataka hopes the alliance with the Congress will help increase its individual tally by entering new regions in the state. Of the 130 Lok Sabha seats across five states and one Union territory in South India—Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry—the Congress and BJP have only 20 seats each while regional parties account for more than 80 seats.