Poonam I Kaushish
How big is big? When does big become small? Does beautiful small make big ugly? Will small fetch better dividends than big? Or vice-versa? Confused? Don’t be. Not when we are talking about our netagan and their vote-bank shenanigans. The latest brainwave to emerge from the Congress stable is to once again carve big States into small, Telangana from Andhra. Raising a moot point: Will it come out smelling of roses or reeking of rotten eggs?
After four years of going back on its pledge, the Congress accepted one of the oldest demands in independent India for a separate State and split Andhra Pradesh. The new 29th State Telangana comprising 10 districts including Hyderabad which would be the joint Capital for 10 years till the other regions, Rayalaseema and Andhra identify their own.
Undeniably, the Congress decision has nothing to do with the bigness and smallness of Andhra or with national interest but everything to do with crass opportunism, massaging vote-banks and improving its winability quotient. The Party feels it has dealt a masterstroke to check-mate opponents in the 2014 elections. Camouflaged as imperative for “political stability” in the country. Sic.
The Party is hopeful that whatever losses it incurs in Andhra, it would reap big dividends in Telangana provided TRS Chief K Chandrasekara Rao doesn’t backtrack on his word of merging his outfit with the Congress. Of the 42 Lok Sabha and 294 Assembly seats in Andhra, Telangana gets 17 MPs and 119 legislature seats. Also, by carving Rayalseema it would reduce YSR Congress Jaganmohan Reddy’s clout and weightage in the region.
Besides, the Congress has a tough task ahead to contain the collateral fallout and assuage the Rayalseema and Andhra leaders, already 7 MPs, two State Ministers and 7 MLAs have resigned. Making matters worse TRS’s Rao extolls people of the two districts living in Hyderabad to quit their jobs and make way for Teleganites!
Alongside the Centre has to grapple with the communal fall-out of the new State. Given that the raison d atre Hyderabad is sandwiched between the two warring sides. Currently the Muslim population of Telangana is 4.5% but with Hyderabad the total Muslim population would touch 12.5%. Whereby, small regional outfits like the Hyderabad-based All India Majlis-e-Ittihad al-Muslim would become increasing crucial for the ruling dispensation.
But after Telangana, what? Already, over 10 new entrants are rearing to go. BSP’s Mayawati favours bifurcation of UP — Harit Pradesh out of Western UP, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal out of south-eastern UP. Leaders in Maharashtra have raised the ante for Vidarbha and Gorkha Mukti Morcha for Gorkhaland in West Bengal but both the Trinamool and CPM oppose.
Then there is a demand for Saurashtra in Gujarat, Coorg in Karnataka, Gondwana from portions of Chhattisgarh, Andhra and Madhya Pradesh, Kodagu from Karnataka’s coffee belt, Bodoland from Assam, Ladakh and Jammu from Kashmir, Garoland from Meghalaya and Mithilanchal from North Bihar.
Logically, if one district of Assam could be made into a full-fledged State of Nagaland, another into Mizoram, a third into Meghalaya and yet another into Arunachal Pradesh, how can one hold back on Jammu or Vidarbha? RJD’s Laloo Yadav’s was ever so right when he warned, “Yeh madhumakhi ka chatha hai, chedho ge toh pashtaoh ge” over Jharkhand’s creation in 2000.
Undeniably, a few States are much too large and unwieldy for efficient governance. It takes nearly two days to get from one end of UP to the other by road! Obviously, administrative efficiency is the first casualty. As the 2000 experience of Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and, earlier, of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, shows, smaller States are able to meet better the rising expectations of their people for speedy development and a responsive and effective administration. Today, all are shining examples of “small is beautiful.”
What warranty that it would decrease the ever-rising disparities between the haves and the have-nots which are all the more glaring and difficult to camouflage in small States. Clinching their arguments by asserting that with caste and creed dictating the polity’s agenda presently, any fresh redrawing of India’s political map would only give monstrous fillip to separatism.
Besides, it may make sound political sense but lousy economics. When the Prime Minister goes blue in the face talking of cutting back on costs and austerity drive, we continue to multiply our expenses. Authoritative sources aver that the creation of a State would cost the national exchequer over Rs 1,500 crore. Entailing expenditure on setting up a new State capital, Assembly and Secretariat but excluding the annual recurring expenses.
In addition, it could well encourage fissiparous tendencies, ultimately leading to India’s balkanization and stoke the sub-terranean smouldering fires of disputes over borders— and cities. Both Haryana and Punjab still claim Chandigarh. Orissa demands the return of Saraikala and Kharsuan. Nagaland still wants to cut into large chunks of Manipur and certain forest areas of Assam to create Nagalim. Bihar yearns desperately for the mineral-rich districts of Jharkhand.
Will not a further partition of the existing States result in an India that would fit Jinnah’s classical description of Pakistan as being “truncated and moth-eaten”? Remember, the Dar Commission recommended that no new provinces should be formed as India was burdened with problems more urgent than the problem of redistribution of provinces. Such as poverty, food, inflation and production. Grounds which more than hold true today.
The tragic irony is that successive Prime Ministers bought peace at the cost of strong integrated India by carving out new rajyas for acquiring “new chamchas” and assured vote banks. Unfortunately for the Centre, its policy of going populist and opting for quick-fix remedies has boomeranged.
In the ultimate, the UPA Government needs to learn from old mistakes, diagnose the disease afresh and hammer out solutions for better governance. Much can be achieved through decentralization of administration without adding to the cost of governance through top-heavy ministerial baggage.
Time to stop netas from creating new pocket boroughs motivated by petty personal interests, undermining national unity. Are we now going to roll back history to pre-Independence days and create 562 States? “It will be a folly to ignore realities; facts take their revenge if they are not faced squarely and well”, said India’s first Home Minister Sardar Patel. Let not history resound to: We learn nothing from history except that we learn nothing from history!INFA
Poonam I Kaushish