He’s from Andhra, She from Telangana. Where’s India?
Is small really beautiful? Is the creation of new States the road to good governance? How many more times must the map of India be redrawn to accommodate regional, ethnic and linguistic aspirations.
The agitation for the new Telangana state and the counter-stir to prevent it from happening in Andhra has thrown myriad questions. The Centre finds itself caught in a cleft as past supporters and protagonists have developed second thoughts on right-sizing the State on the development plank. There are several points of contention between the pro and anti-Telangana lobbies. But the tussle essentially is over Hyderabad— a standing monument to Telugu enterprise.
Historically, Telangana’s claim on Hyderabad, perhaps the most beautiful and prosperous city of India, is beyond dispute. Its inhabitants are mostly from Telangana. But it couldn’t have grown the way it has without the partnership and hard work of people hailing from coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. A Union Territory status for the city should be an acceptable compromise. But in the obtaining tensions stoked by political vested interests, the warring groups have a problem for every solution offered.
Demands for smaller states from other parts of the country have made the Andhra imbroglio more intractable. Latent, well-rooted and expedient aspirations have begun finding rapid expression in a manner that leaves one wondering whether India’s a Union of States or a just a collection of entities longing for ownership of space?
One cannot quarrel with the human quest for space. But in the kind of polity that we have, it spawns more differences than it actually resolves.
There is no dearth of river and border disputes between existing States and UTs. Will these festering problems not compound and spin out of control given the way politics is practiced and played in the country.
Fresh in one’s mind are memories of Punjab and Haryana slugging it out over Chandigarh; Delhi at the receiving end of the Haryana farmers’ wrath on issues relating to water and power, Telangana residents accusing Andhra and Maharashtra of denying them their legitimate share of Godavari and Krishna river waters.
If one sits down counting these disputes, the list wouldn’t end. With the creation of new States shall proliferate regional parties, most of which pander to parochial feelings over national objectives. Some do grow up with the passage of time when given a share in power at the Centre. But their guiding impulse remains rooted in local sentiments. Example: DMK’s arm-twisting of the Centre on the Sri Lankan Tamil question with no regard for Colombo’s sovereignty New Delhi has to respect even while dealing with humanitarian issues.
Some people give the example of United States — that has much less population spread over fifty States. But the parallel seems out of place, the special Indian conditions requiring different approaches for different regions. I’m not sure whether small but politically instable Goa and Jharkhand have got the political leadership and governance they deserve.
The experience of seven sisters in the North East is equally disheartening.
At the end of the day, it isn’t really about size. The answer lies in a committed and enlightened polity supported by a bureaucracy sensitive to popular angst and needs. If demands for smaller states are met, the politico might have more chief ministerial slots. But good governance may still remain a distant dream for most electorate.