India’s Electoral Behaviour and Democracy
It is now clear that the Indian electorate has made different choices for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. For the Lok Sabha, the electorate preferred a strong national party and in state Assembly polls, they voted for strong regional parties. We have seen this trend in West Bengal, Odisha and Jharkhand, and in some other states. The recently concluded Delhi Assembly election was no exception; a regional outfit virtually demolished a strong national opponent, reversing the results of the last Lok Sabha election. In that election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged strong in 65 out of 70 assembly segments in Delhi. But in the Assembly elections, the party could manage to win only eight seats. On the other hand, the Aam Admi Party (AAP), which finished last in the Lok Sabha elections, failing to win a single parliamentary constituency, has emerged victorious in the Assembly by winning 62 seats. So, it stands to reason that the Indian electorate has started thinking differently for different elections.
This trend is a positive sign for India as it provides a base for democracy to thrive and if this trend continues, India will move towards becoming a true federal country. The problem of being under the rule of a strong national party at all levels in a vast country like India is that more often than not, national parties fail to address regional aspirations. We have witnessed it since Independence. Development never took place as per the requirements of regions; rather it was based on the pulls and pushes of regions at Delhi Darbar. The Northeast region has suffered most because of this attitude. National parties have always focused on building schools, colleges, hospitals and factories in mainland India rather than the Northeast as that strategy fetched more seats in the elections. This is why development is lopsided in India.
Even after seven decades of Independence, no serious efforts have been taken to channel the huge water resources of the mighty Brahmaputra River for the development of Northeast. All-weather roads and bridges, which are a necessity for the region, have not been given importance. Even communication between the mainland and NE has not been developed with urgency. Such step-motherly treatment has virtually forced its people to form regional parties. Manipur People’s Party was the first regional party in India and many have emerged since then. The fact remains that regional parties have a better grasp of the needs of the region and thus are able to draw the attention of the central government to more specific requirements. As a result, these days, we are watching efforts being made to develop the Northeast and the needs of the region are being slowly addressed. It appears that the rest of India has taken a leaf out of the Northeast playroom.