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BJP’s Small State Theory

By Kancha Ilaiah

With the Telangana question reaching a climactic stage it is necessary to examine the implication of carving out small states for issues such as reservations in general and the OBC reservations in particular. Dr B.R. Ambedkar argued for small states and a strong Centre to put a check on feudal upper caste forces in the states. But he could not succeed in convincing the Centre, even when it was headed by the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a progressive man of that time, to grant reservations to OBCs.

OBCs could get reservations only in big states such as Tamil Nadu and later in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajahmundry resolution of 1996 also pleaded for small states though it was far away from the position of Dr Ambedkar. But it did not succeed in carving out small states by dividing the well-established linguistic states across the country.

What it cleverly did was to carve out three tribal states — Uttaranchal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — which do not have any bearing on larger states. The BJP could not impose its small state theory on semi-tribal region like Gorkhaland because of strong resistance from the then Communist Party of India-Marxist government in West Bengal.

It could have easily divided Jammu and Kashmir and separated Vidarbha from Maharashtra and Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. But it could not. Even if we assume that it could not resolve the Telangana question because of the Telugu Desam’s pressure and the Vidarbha issue because of Shiv Sena, why it could not separate Jammu from Kashmir?

Now while being out of power, the BJP wants to achieve the target and Telangana is its immediate goal. Quite surprisingly the BJP has even made common cause with the Maoists of Andhra Pradesh for achieving Telangana. The TRS, the RSS and Maoist forces have together formed a common joint action committee and are working hand in hand. The RSS has now, in fact, expanded to all the districts of the Telangana region.

The major stakeholders of the small state movement are OBC, SC, STs and the minorities, who are watching it from outside with fear and anxiety. While the leaders are the upper castes, some of them rabid anti-reservationists, the mobs constitute of OBC youth.

It is a known fact that the question of reservations in general and the OBC reservations in particular was never an agenda of the BJP and the Maoists. They only accept is as an inevitable aspect. If big states such as Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were not in the hands of OBC or SC leadership with substantial MPs with them, the 27 per cent central reservation for OBCs would not have materialised.

Even if small states come into being and a quasi-unitary system comes into existence and even if an OBC man like Narendra Modi himself becomes the Prime Minister, the reservation system will be in doldrums because personally Mr Modi never worked for the reservation system. Leave alone him, no BJP OBC chief ministers like Shivraj Singh Chauhan or Kalyan Singh (with the exception of Uma Bharti) have fought for OBC reservations.

The BJP is planning to hang the Congress with two ropes — corruption and small states. If the BJP’s small states agenda is executed at one place, it can spread like wildfire to state after state. The BJP knows that very well. The BJP is successful in working with its enemy — the Maoists — and the Congress has fallen into the trap. The question of regional disparities could have been handled quite seriously by the Centre on a long-term basis.

Some of the pro-reservation forces — including Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati — believe that Dr Ambedkar’s theory of small states is applicable now. But that is textbook thinking. In a globalised capital resource mobilisation, the small but rich castes can establish a greater control on the lower caste masses in small states. In a situation where even the judiciary, time and again, goes against reservations, without the presence of OBC/dalit-controlled states like Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, deconstruction of reservations is rather easy.

It is common sense that big states assert greater autonomy and small states cannot. The Centre can treat them like districts. And if a communal party is in power, organising communal carnages is absolutely easy. The principle of linguistic state is not sacrosanct but the state should protect the interests of the vulnerable sections during crisis moments. Did we not have the experience of Emergency?

A state such as Tamil Nadu did not bend to Indira Gandhi’s dictates so easily. On the issue of imposing linguistic hegemony also, it resisted for greater good.

The OBC, SCs, STs must weigh their survival options quite carefully. The BJP did not propose the small state thesis out of love for Dr Ambedkar. Those OBC, SC, STs who think that political power will fall like an apple on their lap in small states are living in a fool’s paradise.

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