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Politics of small states

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Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao

BJP, the votary of small states, has floated the political weather balloon of Uttar Pradesh reorganization just before the assembly elections in that state, though such proposal is not new. A resolution made by UP assembly during the Chief Ministership is pending for over a decade. Both, the then resolution and present proposal are politically motivated and there is no secret about it. When political interests overtake the rationality becomes the causality and the best example for that is the creation of Telangana. The state of Andhra Pradesh is the victim of irrational, unscientific division of existing linguistic state of Andhra Pradesh originally created for Telugu speaking people. No such irrational division of any state should happen again in the name of creation of smaller states.

The political map of India, as on the date of independence, had the British created provinces and princely states which joined the dominion of India. That position remained unchanged till India became Republic. There was no set criterion for colonial rulers in creating provinces neither our own rulers are ready with a criterion for new administrative units, barring one consolatory resolution accepting the concept of linguistic state. Jawaharlal Nehru was not for creation of  separate Telugu state.  But the death of  Gandhian, Potti Sriramulu after over 53 day fast and consequent violence in the Madras Presidency forced Jawaharlal Nehru to concede Andhra state in 1953 and that was followed by the constitution of  the first State Reorganization Committee (SRC) under the chairmanship of Justice Fazal Ali.

That SRC took language as the criterion for the state and recommended linguistic states. Barring Gujarat all language people got their own states. Since then many new states were created without evolving a proper criterion for the statehood and also no recommendation from an expert committee. All those new states were created on political compulsions. Gujarat was created, Vishal Punjab was split into three states namely Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The north-east area got seven states. This all happened when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was at the helm of affairs. South India remained untouched. Even when she was confronted with a violent agitations for creation of separate Telangana state in 1969 and separate Andhra state in 1972, Mrs. Indira Gandhi categorically stated, on the floor of parliament, that “Congress is against disturbing the existing linguistic states” and that emphasis stood till 2014 when Congress under Sonia Gandhi with ignored Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s sane advise and bifurcated Andhra Pradesh with disastrous political consequences. BJP sheepishly supported Congress move hurting severely the residual Andhra Pradesh. The statesmanship of Vajpayee helped in the formation of Uttarakhand, Chattisghad, and Jarkhand. He persuaded the states of UP, MP and Bihar to pass resolution for that in their assemblies, despite BJP was not in power in those states. In the division of Andhra Pradesh Sonia led Congress acted unilaterally ignoring the state assembly resolution opposing the split, causing a severe blow to the federal structure.

In 2014 Lok Sabha Election manifesto BJP emphasized the “recognition of regional aspirations” but such recognition was given basing on the political advantage and not in a rational way. That’s why the Vidarbha state demand, which was much older than Telangana, was ignored till now. This irrational and unscientific creation of new states without a basic criterion for the statehood is going to hurt the country as a whole. The demand for new states will be endless as selfish politicians and parties are sure to raise the regional sentiments for the sake of political relevance.

It is in this context that the BJP, which is for small states, have to come up with their concept of the ‘small sates’ and put it for discussion. The creation of new states should no longer be a political decision. Just because the Art. 3 of the constitution gave the parliament the power to define or alter the existing borders of the states, the ruling dispensation can’t consider it as an unbridle one. The inclusion of Article 3 in the constitution of India was a mistake as that was colonial legacy where the British monarch did through Government of India Act 1935 to keep all the power in foreign rulers to weaken the regional resistance of people. Such power without caring for the local peoples or parties is usurped by the Union though the Congress leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru always spoke about federalism and respect for democratic, local aspirations.

Now it seems UP state is going to be the next victim of irrationality, like the Andhra Pradesh, because a particular party aims at enhancing its own winning chances and also can damage the opponents’ chances.

For too long BJP was talking about its small states idea without actually defining their perceived ‘smallness’ and there was no consistency in their talk on that. It is time for that party to give the conceptual clarity for the ‘small’ as per their vision. Whether they are going to take geographical area in sq. kms with a centrally located state capital as the criterion for a small state!

Is BJP is planning to have set of Lok Sabha constituencies as a criterion for statehood ?  At present UP has 80 seats and Sikkim has only one seat, yet both are called states with the same powers. Whether they wish to say that each area covering 20 Lok Sabha seats qualify to be a state? Alternatively BJP propose population as the basis, saying each state will have 2-3 crore population. Whatever it may be in BJP’s mind regarding the smallness of the state it should first come out openly and then allow discussion on that. If they are not in a position to convince the other parties on their small state concept the other option is to form a second state reorganization committee to evolve a new criterion, as the language was made to fail by politicians through their vested interests in Andhra Pradesh. Till such acceptable new criterion is evolved it is better the present states left untouched.

(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at duggarajusrinivasarao@gmail.com)

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