Regionalism essentially means affiliations and obligations towards a region or a state above and beyond those towards the country as a whole. At the base of it lies a sense of identity.
Even though the British provided opportunity for unification of all the territorial units by their system of administrations, they promoted prejudices on the basis of language, culture, caste or religion.
Major Causes for Regionalism:
1. Apprehension on the part of linguistic ethnic or religious minorities in view of uniform system of administration and policies.
Many of these groups dominant in specific region became suspicious as to whether their cultural ties, ethos and symbols would be taken care by the Indian state. Perhaps, this explains the fact that most regional forces have strike roots in non-Hindi belt (Tamil Nadu, Andhra etc.).
2. Uneven pattern of socio-economic development have created regional disparities. What is worst is the naming of these states as BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) etc.
The categorization and sub-categorization of the states on the basis of socio-economic indicators have generated resentment against the central leadership.
3. The elitist character of leadership and unwarranted intervention by the centre in the affairs of the state has rendered the state vulnerable to regional forces.
The strategic political calculations at the centre and failure of regional political parties to bargain with them have also been a cause of concern.
It is because of these factors that the polity has inevitably been flooded with demands for autonomy, statehood or even secession. The leadership at the centre as well as in the states have responded by creating separate states, to suit the needs of time and dealt firmly with parochial demands.
Perhaps the best explanation for continuing pressure of regionalism has been explained by Iqbal Narain, “regionalism is an important factor in party building and unless alternative secular loyalty bases are discovered or created regionalism shall continue to flourish.”
It is really ironical that when it threatens the unity of nation a lot of hue and cry is made but when the political masters are tired of non volatile issues they resort to regional tinges.
Both the people and the leadership need to realize that parochial and regional affiliations have their own limitations. They can benefit those who benefit from the status quo.
The quest for opportunity in the global era demands shedding these complacencies and compete with other units for growth and development. The liberalization of economy has further accentuated the regional disparity.
Investments are taking place particularly in the South and Western regions of India. It is imperative for the state to adequately ensure that investments are balanced. It must invest in underdeveloped regions.
Thus lack of development or uneven development remains unhindered by the forces of liberalization. Part of it has seriously undermined the fate of BIMARU states. State need to be sensitive to assure balanced development in the absence of which regional issues may become more volatile.