[This follows the post titled ‘When will these state divisions stop?’ Here I discuss some recommendations and other observations. You have to read the previous post before you read this.]
There are two initial conditions for the current set of problems we are facing where many regions are clamoring for new states.
Problem 1: The center was averse, reluctant and sometimes downright opposed to formation of new states in India equating it to balkanization of the country.
Problem 2: India being a weak-federal strong-central country, the incumbent states like to remain big so that their bigger strength in the Parliament gives them better negotiating terms.
These two problems form the premise for most of the problems that we are facing with various neglected regions in India. There are two ground realities that emanate from the diversity of this country.
Reality 1: Though there are many states in India, we do not recognize various kinds of identities in India. While some identities got statehoods, others did not. Many states have one majority identity clubbed with few or many minority identities.
Reality 2: All individuals and all identities work with self-interest. If unchecked, a majority and privileged group could inadvertently dominate and marginalize the minority and underprivileged group within a state, even when no preset agenda or a plan exists.
Over a prolonged period of time, the above two problems combined with above two ground realities could result in the following situation.
Imagine a state where region A forms the majority and the privileged while region B forms the minority and the underprivileged. Reality 1 and Reality 2 suggests that there should be safeguards, protections, guarantees and reservations to protect people of region B. In most states of India those safeguards and protections do not exist because of shortsightedness and reluctance of India to recognize those identities as valid constituents.
And where those safeguards and protections exist, like in Andhra Pradesh, the region A could still flout them with impunity using the clout of majority; and there is nothing the region B could do other than complain, protest, agitate, and in the worst case scenario ask for separate statehood.
When the region B clamors for separate statehood, the incumbent state will be unwilling to let go of this region no matter what, because of Problem 2 – they don’t want to become smaller. All efforts by region B to get attention from the Center will be snubbed, because of Problem 1 – center doesn’t want to create more states.
So how do we get out of such situations? Here I propose some of the possible methods.
1. Run states as mini-nations
India should allow states to run like mini-nations. That means recognition of an identity should not stop at state level, but should extend it within the state as well. The way a nation protects the states from each other’s domination, a state should protect the regions from each other’s dominations. That means the current setup of treating a state as a homogenous entity where only the number people’s representatives has a role to play is fraught with problems.
The way a nation has states, a state in turn should have regions. If state is a mini-nation, then each of those regions is a mini-state. Each of those regions should have their administrative safeguards, protections, and reservations. For example, extending Mulki Rule kind of protection (as done in Andhra Pradesh with an intention to protect Telangana) should be the norm not the exception. Having a head for those regions could also be considered.
We should realize that it is natural for a majority region to suppress a minority region in each state – it comes as a natural outcome of common men and their leaders acting selfishly in their narrow schemes. We should not see it as an exception but as a norm and design our states keeping that mind. It’s time we realize that we have far too many identities and that all of them cannot be accommodated with a state for each of them. However, we can take measures wherein minority and underprivileged identities are given their due share without being suppressed or marginalized.
If Andhra Pradesh was run like a mini-nation, Telangana would not have been so easily discriminated and marginalized. A smaller region would have almost equal power as the larger region and thereby nullify the discriminatory resolutions. We should learn lessons from Telangana and make sure other states do not go through similar problems. If we make these changes, clamor for new states would drastically reduce, and regions would not have to put up with discrimination.
2. Make India a federation
The inherent assumption that center is always the best decision maker is flawed. Many decisions that the center has taken have not gone well with many regions and they have suffered for that. It’s also high time we started moving towards full fledged federation. Right now, we are a very weak-federal country –called quasi-federal. We became a strong-central country because our forefathers who framed the Constitution and the first few Prime Ministers had to contend with the real problem of breaking up of the country during the Independence times. They believed that a Center was more benevolent compared to the states when it came to the mandate of keeping the country united. This concentration of absolute power at the Center also led to certain excesses where Chief Ministers were fired again and again by New Delhi. The only way to combat the excesses of the Center was to position regional parties at the states. That’s exactly what happened in the last thirty years where regional parties came to power diluting the national parties’ power forcing New Delhi to have coalitions which now had to recognize the needs and demands of states. Coalition politics substituted for a federation in India.
Right now, after 50 years of freedom, it is clear that India stands united in spite of its diversity and inherent contradictions. Therefore, we don’t have to feel insecure anymore and pave the way for granting the States more power making India closer to a true federation. The first step towards that direction is to accommodate states as an entity at the center. Having a Senate like structure in US will make sense.
Senate for India
USA happens to have only two major parties because it is a very strong federal country. US Congress elects candidates from each constituency and therefore is reflection of population of each state. Bigger states have more Congressmen. However, the Senate has two members from each state. As result of this the Congress represents the people while the Senate represents the states. Even a small state is equal to the biggest state.
In addition to Lok Sabha, we should have a Senate like structure at the Center where every state sends equal number of representatives that are elected directly by the people (so that they are not the pawns for CM or PM).
We are becoming a mature democracy. Awareness amongst masses is increasing. We are also becoming comfortable with our local identities while being proud of national identity. It is clear that we are not ready to let go of our local identities to conform to the majorities. With growing changes in Indian polity, it is a good idea to take steps proactively instead of killing people each time they clamor for a new state. Why unnecessary agitations, lathi charges, putting people in jail, violence on the streets? Why can’t we foresee what’s coming and take action now?
A strong federation with Senate like structure is the need of the hour. That way we will see states like Mizoram, Nagaland also get the deserved attention. Currently Northeast States are completely neglected and very soon we may be asking why these states want to separate from India. With a strong federation, there is no more a compelling reason to be big. Incumbent states that have neglected some regions, marginalized and discriminated some regions, or failed to create equitable society in wealth and opportunity amongst various regions, will no longer have to continue the injustices just because they have to remain big.
Also, I recommend that we scrap Rajya Sabha completely. Currently it has absolutely no real use. There is no need to have people like Jaya Bhachchan, Vijay Mallya, Anil Ambani sitting in that Upper House as if it is a fashion parade of celebrities.
3. Democratization of political parties
Here, I am recommending certain changes in the current structure of political parties in India. Since there is no jurisdiction of Indian Constitution over functioning of political parties, these recommendations cannot be enforced or implemented. They will remain mostly as suggestions.
Though the Indian political parties participate in democracy and expect people to vote their leaders in an open election, they do not necessarily practice democracy within their party. Even the more democratic of those parties, like the right-wing BJP or left-wing Communists, do not actually practice democracy all the way.
A candidate for MP or MLA is chosen by the high command, they are not elected by the party workers of that constituency. Therefore, an MP or MLA is always subservient to the high command thereby nullifying the very concept of democracy. The MLA/MP is now more accountable to the party high command rather than being responsible to the people who elected him.
Lack of right spirit of democracy in political parties has resulted in MPs and MLAs making a beeline to touch the feet of the high command, grovel on the floor, lick their feet, making Indian democracy a farce. The CM of a state is removed or appointed and the whims and fancy of the ruling party in New Delhi. Indira Gandhi dismissed government in states at the slightest pretext. How is India a democracy if an elected CM in a state can be removed so easily?
Political parties should become more democratic
The political parties should work down-top and not top-down. The registered party workers should elect the local MLA candidate and these candidates in turn should elect the state representation for the party for CM position. In the same way, the party workers should elect the MP candidate who will in turn elect the PM candidate. This will bring in true democracy making candidates more accountable and responsible towards the people rather than their party high command in the hands of one single leader or the family.
The candidates will become powerful and will listen to the people rather than get coerced by the high command. This will bring in true democracy in India. Right now, people of Telangana are frustrated, leading to violence and suicides, because their elected leaders are not accountable to them. They are instead playing to the tunes of their Madams and Babus.
Governing states like mini-nations and regions like mini-states, creating a strong federation, introduction of Senate-like structure, and democratization of political parties will make India mature in handling current issues coming from regionalism and make India a strong and vibrant democracy. We will see fewer demands for new states because smaller regions will now be protected from dominance of bigger regions if run as mini-states. We will see a decrease in the number of regional parties because now with strong federation, regional aspirations are met even by national parties. That’s when we will move closer to two or three party system across the country.