NEW DELHI: In a country where the media has divided itself and polity between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, the regional parties are often tossed onto the sidewalk as if they do not exist. There is a reluctance by the corporate owned media to recognise the role of regional players in a Lok Sabha election, evident usually in a deliberate playing down of the regional parties role or a lampooning of state leaders.

Lok Sabha 2019 establishes one inalienable fact. That the BJP juggernaut is being dented, punctured,even stopped in states where the regional parties are strong.

Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati, two women giving a good fight to the BJP in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh are discredited almost every day by the corporate media, despite the fact that they are taking on the powerful and monied might of the ruling dispensation at the centre against heavy odds.

The Left and the Congress have both fallen in West Bengal, with the contest now directly between Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the campaign hard and intense. The BJP is pushing to reach at least double digit figures in the state, with Banerjee being targeted in an unashamedly virulent and communal campaign. She is giving back as good as she gets, having just drawn a volley of protest from the BJP for stating that PM Modi will be given the “tight slap of democracy” in these elections. A human dynamo who matches the energy of the Prime Minister, Banerjee is working around the clock to ensure that the Trinamool Congress tally does not drop below 35 Lok Sabha seats. She is addressing at least three public meetings every day, and members of her party are enthused, “Didi will not let the BJP grow in West Bengal, you will see.”

Uttar Pradesh, the other battle zone where the BJP had won 72 of the 80 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections is again seeing a strong fight between the regional parties and the ruling dispensation. Here Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi party leader Akhilesh Yadav have sunk political differences and rivalries to form a coalition that seems to have acquired a momentum of its own with every passing phase of the polls. Despite an attack on her by even so called secular parties and sections of the media that she will join the BJP after the polls, Mayawati has held her own and refused to crack under the pressure being exerted on her. The coalition is holding the BJP back, with the Congress party not really expected to cross the single digit mark. And if conventional wisdom that places the gathbandhan ahead of the BJP in these polls is borne out on polling day May 23, the gathbandhan that also includes Ajit Singh and the Rashtriya Lok Dal could emerge with the credit of having brought the BJP seat tally down substantially in the Lok Sabha.

In Bihar, the Congress is part of a coalition dominated by Rashtrya Janata Dal along with smaller partners. The BJP too is in a coalition with the Janata Dal (S) that was in alliance with RJD in the earlier polls. Again both the national parties are getting traction in Bihar because of the local allies. Both UP and Bihar together account for 120 Lok Sabha seats with the BJP having swept to power in the last polls with a major chunk from these two states.

In Odisha, Biju Janata Dal again is on top of the contest here against the BJP. Naveen Patnaik who has gone solo again, has maintained equi distance from both the national parties and reports from the state suggest that he has a good chance of winning a good number of Odisha’s 21 Lok Sabha seats. It will be because of the BJD if the BJP is contained here.

In Tamil Nadu the BJP had barely been able to move because of the DMK and the AIADMK that have held the space. In fact in South India, except for Karnataka it is the local coalitions that have kept the BJP out of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu altogether.Regional parties --Telugu Desam, YSR Congress party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi--hold sway in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana respectively and are expected to emerge on top of the Lok Sabha polls in these two states.

The southern states account for 104 Lok Sabha seats, of which the BJP presence is marked only in Karnataka that has 28 parliamentary constituencies. In Karnataka too the BJP is facing stiff resistance from the Congress-Janata Dal (S) coalition.

The problem really arises in states where the Congress is in direct fight with the BJP --Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Haryana. Maharashtra that together carry 172 seats of which the BJP had won an astounding 139 in the last parliamentary elections maxing states like Rajasthan. The share of seats is expected to drop, but to what extent is uncertain as the Congress is struggling in these states, even in the three ---Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, MP--- where it won the Assembly polls recently.

Reports coming in from the field after five phases of polling confirm that the regional parties being lampooned by the media and the leadership of the national parties are holding their own. And in fact it is the Congress party that is struggling to give a good fight to the BJP in the ‘direct fight’ states, that are adding to the uncertainty of figures more than more complex states like UP.

State leaders had worked out the alignments long before, working together to build a strong offensive against the BJP. The Congress has been shackled by a dearth of good candidates, factionalism, and a sluggish organisation in several states. The regional parties are not impacted by this as all have good organisations in their respective states, and are in touch with the people. They finalised their candidates and their strategy early on into the election ---even in UP where the gathbandhan finalised complex details before the polls were announced---and have thus, managed to give a good fight in the states.

In India, federalism has been given a face by the multitude of regional parties that are targeted by both the Congress and the BJP, along with corporates and a pliant media, with a view to driving India towards a two party system. The power wielded by the regional leaders has worried both the Congress and the BJP at different points, with voices against this being heard both in the Manmohan Singh days and now under Modi.

Coalitions are projected as an undesirable necessity by both, instead of a realisation that the explosion of political parties on the Indian landscape after years of one party rule at the centre, is a federal assertion necessary to keep democracy vibrant and healthy.