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The West Bengal election results have given a new edge to the aspirations of regional parties. They now want to expand their footprint at the cost of national parties. These days, Arvind Kejriwal is seen rolling up his sleeves in Gujarat after Punjab, and Mamata Banerjee is trying to enter national politics.

Let us start with the Congress. The trouble in its Punjab unit is still not over; in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot again took a rebellious turn. The news of the rift between its Bihar MLAs as well as those in Jharkhand is hitting the headlines, while in Maharashtra, Nana Patole angered the MVA alliance partners by claiming that the Congress would fight the next assembly election on its own.

The grand old party is passing through a deadly phase of confusion. Far from creating new leaders, it does not even have the capacity to handle its own clan. While the party high command was trying to wake up from its slumber in Manipur and Goa, the BJP seized power. Had the Congress formed the governments in these states, it would have sent a positive message to the party leaders who were desperate after the 2019 debacle. But no lessons were learnt. Firebrand Navjot Singh Sidhu did not get the requisite ‘respect’ after the victory in Punjab and, now, just before the assembly election, he is hell-bent on breaking the party.

Similarly, in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the results of the assembly elections held before the Lok Sabha election were favourable. The Congress formed governments in the states, but discontent was dimming their brightness from day one. Though Pilot in Rajasthan and Jyotiraditya Scindia in Madhya Pradesh should have been given the reins, those who were close to the high command turned the tables. The promises that were made to Scindia and Pilot were discarded at their convenience. Today, in Madhya Pradesh, the house of BJP is lit up with the ‘Jyoti’ of Jyotiraditya. If Sachin is not handled in time, then don’t be surprised if the lotus blooms again in Rajasthan.

Another example is Jitin Prasada. He lost three consecutive elections due to some shortcomings of the Congress and some of his own. The BJP wanted him on its side during the 2019 Lok Sabha election, but the old fascination kept him bound. Recently, he also took membership of the saffron party. Certainly, the BJP will now try to woo Brahmin voters in Uttar Pradesh by empowering him. Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is also an example of how people who were considered insignificant in the Congress show wonders by joining the BJP.

It doesn’t mean that everything is going well in the BJP. The results in West Bengal have changed many things. Not only has there been a stampede in the Bangabhoomi unit of the party, the gossips circulating about Uttar Pradesh for the past few days have kept the rumour mill on overdrive. The way the party leadership tried to get the political equations between Sanjay Nishad and Anupriya Patel going shows that in the electoral chessboard, these parties will play the role of rooks and knights, not pawns.

The tattles that emerged from the inner circle indicate that Karnataka, too, is going through a period of discord. B.S. Yediyurappa had to say that as long as the high command wants, he would stay on as the CM. After the change of face in Uttarakhand, such speculations in all BJP-ruled states put the party in trouble. This also gave an opportunity for dissidents to vent their frustrations.

Regional parties are smelling opportunities in all these developments. For instance, there was a successful revolt in the LJP recently with five out of the six MPs leaving the leadership of Chirag Paswan and chose his uncle Pashupati Paras as their leader. The BJP has been doing this work for the past eight years, but this time, the hand of the JD(U) is said to be behind it.

So, what are the factors favouring regional parties? First, in most of the recent assembly polls, voters chose regional powers and local satraps over national parties. For example, the Delhi election was held immediately after the Lok Sabha polls. The capital had given all the Lok Sabha seats to Narendra Modi, but in the assembly election, Kejriwal won with a huge majority. Then, we saw almost an action replay in West Bengal. The second reason is that these satraps have understood the BJP’s technique of saam, daam, dand, bhed (by hook or by crook). Now, they also are using it. This is why they feel that with the right strategy and coordination, they can gain a share in central power equations.

The assembly elections in the next two years will also decide the rise or fall in this trend. However, the question will remain whether this is possible while Modi and Amit Shah are in power.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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