Apart from the death and devastation that it brought in its wake, the Uttarakhand disaster has brought to the fore the ugly side of politics, the complete lack of civility and decency in inter-party relations and regional politics in its most repulsive form. While at the national level one sees a complete lack of decorum in the exchanges between the Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party when the entire country is in mourning over the tragic loss of lives in this state a fortnight ago, the people have also come face to face with an obnoxious form of regionalism that poses a grave danger to the national unity and the feeling of oneness.
Before we discuss these disturbing developments, a word about the decline of national parties and the mushroom growth of regional political forces over the last three decades.
The last time a single party obtained a clear majority in the Lok Sabha was in 1984, when the Congress Party led by Rajiv Gandhi rode the sympathy wave following prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination and notched up over 410 seats in the lower House of parliament. Thereafter, the central government has been run either by a minority government with assured outside support or by a coalition of disparate parties who have nothing in common except the craving for political power at the national level. The proliferation of small parties is best explained by the fact that in 1957, the Second Lok Sabha had MPs representing 12 political parties. Fifty years hence, there were MPs belonging to 42 political parties in this House. No national party has succeeded in securing a clear majority in the Lok Sabha since 1984.
This is the backdrop in which both the Congress and the BJP are engaged in an unseemly tussle to run down each other. While one lived with such unpleasant spats in relatively normal times, it is tragic to see the two parties carrying on a no-holds barred fight in the midst of the Himalayan tragedy in Uttarakhand. The Union Home Minister and other Congress leaders objected to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Uttarakhand and said politicians should stay away, forgetting that the prime minister and Ms Sonia Gandhi started it all via an aerial survey. Also, they found nothing wrong in  Rahul Baba visiting the affected regions of Uttarakhand. Even more tragic was the refusal of the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Mr.Vijay Bahuguna to accept help offered by Modi and others. Mr.Bahuguna has said he did not want a parallel rescue operation by Gujarat government. That is understandable, but surely ways could have been devised to take the help of such states.                  
The impact of regional politics is even worse. The last thirty years has seen the emergence of dozens of regional and even local parties whose USP is their irrational and at times mindless commitment to what they see as “state interest”.  For example, there are political leaders in the Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka and in some of the smaller parties in Tamil Nadu who challenge even judicial pronouncements on highly volatile issues like sharing of Cauvery waters, in order to retain their hold over the electors in their states. Such partisanship has also been seen in Punjab and Haryana on the sharing of waters or resolving boundary disputes and in the Telengana region in Andhra Pradesh on the demand for statehood.
In recent times, politicians in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have taken regionalism to another frontier – foreign policy. They launch such a shrill campaign that the union government – whether or not it is dependent on the support of these parties – is forced to take cognizance of the high-pitched arguments and either skew foreign policy to suit the regional shouting brigade or put an issue on the back burner to let tempers cool.  
However, no one had ever seen such naked display of partisanship and shameless regionalism in the aftermath of a national calamity, as one did soon after the rampaging floods took their toll in Uttarakhand. Since the Badrinath-Kedarnath Yatra is popular among Hindus in all regions of the country and a large number of Hindus wait for the onset of summer to undertake this pilgrimage, these centres were flooded with pilgrims from across the land. There were hundreds and even thousands of pilgrims from Gujarat, Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Karnataka and many other states in this ill-fated region around mid-June when disaster struck.
While in the past, the Centre and many states unilaterally offered help to the affected state and the latter graciously accepted the help offered, whether it was by way of financial assistance or manpower or equipment. Uttarkhand 2013 saw a new, ugly regional dimension to disaster management and many politicians from other states began vying with each other to help the victims from their respective states. Also, sadly, the growth and popularity of extremely partisan regional political forces has corrupted the thinking of state-level leaders of so-called national parties like the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Such is the deleterious influence of regional politics that even well-entrenched leaders in these national parties think it prudent to don the regional cap in order to retain their hold on their states and this was on display at Uttarakhand.
Many state governments got down to the task immediately and this included Gujarat, Punjab, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Each state rushed its politicians, bureaucrats and even helicopters to rescue its pilgrims and bring them to safety. While all these states have claimed that they helped pilgrims from other regions also (Madhya Pradesh has released specific figures), this is the first time that the people are witnessing such a regional approach to rescue and relief operations in the face of a national calamity.
The ugliest episode in this saga of regional politics in disaster relief was played out at the Dehra Dun airport when MPs belonging to the Congress Party and the Telugu Desam got into a fist fight over who should buy air tickets to the hapless victims of the disaster for their onward journey to Hyderabad. Anxious to cash-in on the tragedy and win the hearts of the Telugu people for their philanthropy, both the Congress Party and the Telugu Desam dispatched top leaders to Dehra Dun to fetch disaster victims, give them pocket money and air tickets. Of course the philantrophy was to eventually end at the Hyderabad airport where the disaster victims would be presented before TV cameras to enable them to declare their gratitude to the politicians and political parties that had helped them. Unfortunately, the script went haywire in Dehra Dun and all of Andhra Pradesh got to know the cynical political plans of  these politicians. These incidents show regional leaders of national parties like the Congress and BJP in their true colors.   
Looking at this tragic turn of events one wonders which of these is the bigger tragedy – the loss of thousands of human lives in the cloudburst and rampaging floods or the complete breakdown of civilized conduct among our politicians and lack of national unity at these difficult times.