An idea on Telangana

A watcher of India's oldest political party may find that it has a touching faith in homeopathy. The Congress believes in slow cures, and in first exacerbating the symptoms. But its approach to Telangana would suggest the party has a fascination with surgical procedures and allopathy too. After all, deadlines are handed out and then withdrawn until numbness sets in. Finally, you wonder what the Centre really hopes to achieve on Telangana.

It would be easy to see the fanning of the Telangana flames in 2009 as motivated by electoral concerns. With the party floundering after Y.S.R. Reddy's death, it might have been in its interests to split Andhra Pradesh and minimise its losses from the large state, a Congress bastion for nearly a decade before that. But hopefully, that is too cynical an assessment. The argument for small states is an old one. The small state solution is now seen as one that is logical and based on local aspirations, tailored to alleviate a range of problems in a region. Moreover, after three new states were carved out in 2000, the linguistic lines of division did not seem sacrosanct anymore. But the evidence of small being beautiful is not unequivocal. In October 2001, the Congress Working Committee had approved of a party sub-committee's suggestion to form a second States Reorganisation Commission to reconsider the matter.

In the calls for Gorkhaland in North Bengal or a separate Bundelkhand in Western UP, as well as in several parts of the Northeast, there lies the belief that a new capital, a separate assembly, a Raj Bhavan and more MLAs would address local problems better, that in the immediate-term at least, all these would empower locals more than distant state capitals. It is believed that by becoming smaller states, these regions would develop more. Critics argue that the problems of underdevelopment, poverty and governance are not always a function of scale. They could stem from various reasons that these issues are not prioritised by the system or that the costs of poor governance are not high enough for elected representatives and officials to change their ways. Until that changes, carving out smaller states will not change the basic patterns of governance. You would more likely see the emergence of a few more chosen sets of contractors and cronies.

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