Only Small States Will Save the Republic
UP needs to be split into 4 or 5 states
The creation of Telangana, almost sixty years after the people of the region voiced their misgivings about being co-opted into Andhra Pradesh is yet another step in rationalizing and restructuring the Union of States that India is meant to be. India was never meant to be a union of linguistic states, but a union of well governed and managed states.
Thus, the demand for newer administrative units will be a continuous one, one that seeks to bring distant provincial governments in remote capitals closer to the people. Even as the rites to formally create Telangana are underway, old and dormant demands are surfacing. Before it formed the government in Maharashtra, the BJP was in favour of a Vidarbha state.
Mayawati has several times expressed a view that UP needs to be broken into three or four states. Even in Tamil Nadu Dr.S.Ramadoss of the Pattal Makkali Katchi (PMK), a very regional political party, has mooted a bifurcation of Tamil Nadu, with the northern districts being carved out to form a separate state.
Historically also there is some basis to this as the Tamil speaking region in the past comprised of kingdoms centered around Kanchipuram and Tanjore/Madurai. Jayalalithaa has shrilly denounced this demand as "secession" when the PMK only wants a smaller state within the Indian Union.
The Chennai centered Tamil Nadu we now know was the creation of the British. Similarly Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and other linguistic states have no historical basis.
The yearning for linguistic sub-nationalism is a post-independence phenomenon. Often this linguistic sub-nationalism has been a fig leaf for secession as we have seen in Tamil Nadu and Punjab in the past.
The biggest states of India, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are also its worst off states and hence the acronym BIMARU for them is most appropriate. They are also predominantly Hindi speaking states and hence quite clearly there is no linguistic or historical basis for their creation and existence as they are.
It would be however unfair to club MP and Rajasthan with Bihar and UP, both of whom are in an advanced state of political degeneracy with none of their institutions left with an acceptable degree of integrity. Yet within their blanket linguistic conformity these states cover a vast diversity of distinct regions, with characteristic commonly spoken languages, culture and historical traditions.
Each of these states either in terms of landmass or population still would larger than most countries in the world. Even without Uttaranchal, UP would be larger in terms of population than Brazil, Japan or Bangladesh. It was not surprising that despite the supposed linguistic affinity, there were and still are demands for smaller states from within them. All the major political parties supported such aspirations and four new states are the result.
The creation of Uttaranchal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh from the BIMARU big three, and Telangana has provoked a rash of demands for similar restructuring in other areas. The demand is particularly strong in Vidarbha where there has been a mother lode of discontent just below the surface for out of work politicians to seek their political fortunes.
In the recent days there is a demand for a Harit Pradesh consisting of the fertile regions of western UP. At the farthest corner of India there is a gathering demand for the creation of a predominantly Naga state, Nagalim, consisting of all the hilly regions inhabited by the Naga tribes. Then of course there is a demand for Bodoland out of the already much truncated Assam, and a Gorkhaland out of West Bengal. This list can be quite long and tedious.
What contributes most to these demands for smaller or in some cases larger states are a sense of strong regional and historical affinity that is stronger than the sub-national identity, uneven economic conditions leading to wide and easily discernable disparities in development, and the perceived concentration of political power with an identifiable political elite like the Kammas in Andhra Pradesh, Marathas in Maharashtra, and Yadavs in UP.
Contributing in equal measure to these is the non-ideological political climate that has descended upon us after one foreign economic paradigm so obviously failed and the its economic opposite was deemed as the only way to go. What are after all the differences on economic philosophy and management between the BJP, Congress, TDP and Samajwadi Parties?
Or for that matter the CPM? Thus, when real political differences blur, other political differences have to be manufactured to fuel the political bandwagons in the competition for power. Corruption too ceases to be an issue when all political formations are perceived to be equally venal, nepotistic and criminal.
At a time when caste has so fragmented the polity, the demand for small states with a long and traditional affinity often cemented by a common agro-climatic reality becomes a strong motivating force to rally the disenchanted and dispossessed to a common cause. But this must not be allowed to discredit the case for smaller and more manageable states.
The late Dr. Rasheeduddin Khan most eloquently made out this case; of Hyderabad I would like to add, way back in April 1973 in the Seminar, at that time edited by the late Romesh Thapar. He had India divided according to its 56 socio-cultural sub-regions and a map showing these was the centerpiece of the article. That picture still remains embedded in my mind, and whenever I think of better public administration that map would always appears.
Since the subject of small states has begun to emerge as a major issue again, with the recent poll results in Telangana writing its message very clearly on the wall, and with Ramadoss raising the banner in Tamil Nadu and a vociferous cry for a Bundelkhand out of UP, it is a matter of time before small states will become a major political issue nationwide. Mayawati has already said that UP should be trifurcated and others too will soon see the writing on the wall.
The Seminar map is a veritable blueprint for the administrative restructuring of India. Out of UP and Bihar eight distinct sub-regions are identified. These are Uttaranchal, Rohilkhand, Braj, Oudh, Bhojpur, Mithila, Magadh and Jharkhand.
The first and last of these have now become constitutional and administrative realities. But each one of the other unhappily wedded regions is very clearly a distinct region with its own predominant dialect and history. For instance Maithili spoken in the area around Darbhanga in northern Bihar is very different from Bhojpuri spoken in the adjacent Bhojpur area.
Similarly Brajbhasha in western UP is quite different from Awadhi spoken in central UP. India's largest state in terms of area, MP, is broken into five distinct regions, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra into four each, AP, West Bengal and Karnataka into three each, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Orissa into two each, and so on.