MADRAS: Regional political parties are as nationalistic as any others and if national parties suppress them, it will be at the peril of the country’s unity and integrity, the former President, Mr. Zail Singh, said here.

Talking to Indian Express during his two day visit to the city, Mr. Zail Singh said the Centre’s fears on the rise of regional parties were ill founded. It was improper to identify regionalism with. Separatism, he said. The swelling Dravidian movement had been decried, but the Dravidian parties, “be they two, three or now four” were all upholding the principle of national unity and integrity.

The quietening of the Gorkha National Liberation Front struggle after the accord with it sanctioning greater autonomy to Darjeeling had proved that there was some basis to the struggles at all such regional centers. Many regional parties were continuing their struggles because solutions were not being arrived at.

The former President said his own experience with Assam had strengthened his belief in the need to encourage regional voices, the national parties failed to understand the problems in this sphere, and he himself had been sceptical about the outcome of an agreement with regional forces. But his faith had been restored by the Assam government holding unity and integrity dear to its heart.

Regional parties were a consequence of the national parties disallowing their provincial leadership to express regional concerns adequately.

Telugu Desam

The growth of Telugu Desam in Andhra Pradesh was an example. Wide sections of people expressed alarm at first. But the party, after it ‘was voted to power, had laid such fears at rest by its vociferous support of national causes, and to the country’s unity, Mr. Zail Singh said.

Nowhere in the country, where there was an opposition party in power, were smooth Centre state relations to be found.

This was distressing. Conflicts should be between political parties and not governments. Even over the policies, the differences should not be personality oriented.

Speaking at the starting of the MGR Adarsh Public School at Mogappair by the Punjab Association, Mr. Zail Singh said the trend of considering the opposition as an Enemy” had to change. The opposition was a necessity in democracy, to point out mistakes and wrong policies of the ruling party.” Why is the opposition looked on as a shatru when it is definitely only a vidrohi he asked?

The former President asked Punjabis living in Tamil Nadu to become “Tamilian Punjabis” and enjoy rights as any other local resident. People moving to other states should make efforts to learn the local language while retaining their culture and mother tongue, he advised.

Defamation Bill

Those who have not already ‘committed themselves for and against the Defamation Bill both in the government and the press, should act as silent “mediators,” Mr. Zail Singh said.

He suggested to ENS on Thursday that an amicable solution could be found to the controversial Bill, without further kicking up dust. This would have to be done by those without any commitment on the Bill.

Article extracted from this publication >> September 30, 1988