Home Editorials The Assertion of Regional Leadership

The Assertion of Regional Leadership


One fallout of the Karnataka assembly elections is that the infallibility and invincibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been called into question. While this has been commented on by many critics, a related development -that of the failure of the Congress High Command to foist a leader from above in Karnataka has not received the same attention. Both the Chief ministerial candidates stood their ground, and finally struck an uneasy equilibrium with Siddaramaiah as CM and DK Shivakumar as Deputy CM. The arrangement may last for quite a while, because both have a vested interest in retaining power. Earlier the Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot made it clear to the High Command that he would prefer to be  the helmsman of Rajasthan than of the party if a choice had to be made. The way he has treated the High Command’s advice on Sachin Pilot makes it clear that he is not dependent on the High Command for his position. Nay, the High Command needs the incumbent CM more and therefore Pilot’s rebellion has not been very effective. In election bound MP, Kamal Nath has made it clear that he is the CM face of the party. His party has quietly toed the line, for there is no other option.

However, even more interesting is the return of Vijay Raje Scindia as the mascot of the BJP in Rajasthan. The BJP has no option but to endorse her candidature for she is the only one who can pose a formidable challenge to Gehlot. This is  an important  development  for strong Prime Ministers – like Indira Gandhi, and now Narendra Modi – have often sought to foist their own acolytes to helm state governments. While in the short run it is possible to remote control the state chief ministers, the fact of the matter is that the actual implementation of programs on the ground require a connect with the field, and the voters are quite sensitive to the fact that their leader is but a puppet on a string. Apart from hurting  the regional pride, it also creates a situation where the state government looks to the Union government for directions in matters of day to day administration. This also give a spur to regional parties – they are in a position to exploit the fact that the loci of control is outside of the state.

This newspaper welcomes the growth of regional leaders for at the end of the day, India is a Union of states, and the states must assert their own authority, especially when it comes to the choice of their own leadership.