Friday, December 11, 2009

TELANGANA DOMINO: TIME TO TRANSCEND PARTIES, TALK INDIA

Surely one of the most idiotic arguments being bandied about in the aftermath of the Telangana fiasco is that small states are needed for better governance. India's politicians can do little better than think beyond their immediate gains. But what about the so-called intelligentsia that often parrots the same nonsense, camouflaged in fine prose?

Yesterday, on CNN-IBN's Face The Nation program, Ajit Singh was making out a case for Harit Pradesh, to be carved out of UP. His main argument was that people had to travel 700 kms to Lucknow. Due to that great distance, he wanted you and I to believe, people had lost touch with the government. Of course, he padded this absolutely stupid and dishonest logic with culture, language etc. What he did not say was that, thanks to a fair concentration of Jat voters in the proposed state, he would be able to become Chief Minister. If 'culture' and 'language' were really driving his demand, he actually should have been asking for merging many of these parts of UP with Haryana. But such a logical merger will not help his personal cause.

A few days back, MJ Akbar had also spoken of a carving out a Harit Pradesh in the same areas of UP. But he did not ask for it because Lucknow was far away or because of any cultural affinity that he shares with Ajit Singh. His demand was based on essentially the same separatist argument that Jinnah and other Muslim leaders had used to create Pakistan as a separate homeland for India's Muslims: a well-defined political space for Muslims. A separate state, according to Akbar, would become a natural "socio-economic magnet" for Muslims. Such a demand in times when violent Islamic extremism is posing a threat to the whole world is just the fuel that is needed to create fresh frustration among more young men so that they too get seduced by the call for jihad. Jinnah's 'Direct Action' in a different form.

Plant the seed of a need in people's minds and then fan it in the hope that others will capitulate when it goes out of control. This dangerous argument has already seen the Partition of India. This very seed is now fuelling demand for smaller states along all kinds of illogical, even dangerous dimensions. The domino effect is kicking in, with demands for at least nine more states already being articulated, with many more to follow.

Why smaller states alone? Why not smaller countries? If Ajit Singh wants a separate state because people have to travel 700 kms to the state capital, then why not separate countries for people living thousands of kilometers from Delhi? Who will decide how far is too far? What about the distance of Novosibirsk from Moscow? Or Lhasa from Beijing? Similarly, if it difficult to govern big states, should it it not, by the same logic, be easier to govern smaller countries? How many countries should India be further cut into? And, pray, how much better are the much smaller and much more homogeneous countries of the sub-continent being governed? Is Pakistan an example to follow of a religion-based creation? Is Bangladesh proof that a country with one predominant religion, culture and language is better governed? What about Nepal? Why is no one talking about the scorching success story of China and its huge provinces?

Look at the irony. European nations, which were at each others' throats for centuries, are dismantling borders and converting a continent into their common, secular home. Yes, it took countless small wars and two world wars for them to wake up from their follies that needlessly killed perhaps hundreds of millions of them. Do we need, still, to go down that route again? Our politicians are not concerned either about the past or the future that they are creating. That is why, thanks to their limitless greed and no-holds-barred lust for power, after 63 years of Independence, they are trying to even further divide its people. Lessons of colonial rule and slavery lie totally forgotten.

If Telangana becomes a reality, the ordinary people who are dancing in the streets with joy are not going to benefit in any manner whatsoever, no matter what the historical basis of the demand for a separate state. Only their new rulers will. The manner in which they are being robbed will remain the same. As the Koda example shows, it may even get worse. India's people need to understand one thing very clearly. Their political leaders will go to any extent to mislead and weaken them and even make the nation vulnerable, if it can get them power and pelf.

The manner in which Sonia Gandhi has capitulated to the unexpected blackmail of a frustrated KC Rao who was left out of the loot cake, thanks primarily to her total dependence on and faith in YSR Reddy who made billions as Chief Minister, does not augur well for the nation at all. This surrender is many, many times worse than a one-time exchange of a few terrorists to save lives of ordinary citizens. It will have a domino-effect whose effects will be nothing short of disastrous.

Sonia Gandhi needs to be reminded that she is India's Queen not because she is a European or because she belongs to a minority community. She is where she is only because of the surname she sports. Unfortunately, many developments of the last few years suggest that she has been completely insulated from the idea and spirit of India that her husband and mother-in-law believed in. Her chosen coterie is manifestly quietly using her to take India in a direction that they would never have even considered, much less promoted.

The BJP needs to understand that the dynamics unleashed by KC Rao's un-Gandhian fast are far too serious to be exploited to score cheap political points and have fun at Sonia Gandhi's, or anyone's expense. The matter is too grave to be used as an opportunity to push for creation of more states solely with an eye on the next elections. It might even be tempted to get one back on the Congress on the Kandahar issue. That will be nothing short of a shame. The party must not forget that it had touched a new low in Parliament on the issue of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. It has a lot of work to do to reclaim its almost destroyed credibility as a responsible national party that is expected to place the nation above all else.

Politics is not about hungering for power, as some media luminaries and politicians have come to believe. If it is not about empowering people and strengthening the nation, then it is no different from banditry.

There are times and issues that must transcend party lines. This is one of them. The two national parties need to rise above petty politics to ensure that the Telangana drama does not give wing and wind to any development that will weaken India in any manner whatsoever. If Vajpayee can embrace Musharraf who attacked India, why can Advani not sit with Sonia? Their objectives surely are not as irreconcilable; they should, semantics apart, actually be the same. It is now up to both of them and their parties to not fail India. Again.
---------------------------------------------------------------------
Related reading:
1. Akbar turns Jinnah, asks for Muslim state
2. Covering up the mother of all corruption scandals
'