Ends and means

The shoddy and unconscionably delayed Liberhan report — still unavailable to ordinary mortals in print — does not bring closure to the disgraceful demolition of the Babri masjid. The debate in parliament was polemical, with the BJP steadfastly obfuscating the issue and crudely attempting to drown the home minister’s response in the Lok Sabha with a raucous chorus of ‘Jai, Jai Atalji’ on the ground that Vajpayee had been insulted by a Congress member.
The many flaws in the Liberhan report were exposed at length without detracting from his primary conclusions. Much emphasis was placed by the BJP on the then prime minister, Narasimha Rao’s responsibility. He was inactive and helpless on the fateful day because he was taken in by the solemn promises of the BJP leadership including the UP chief minister, Kalyan Singh to parliament, the supreme court, the National Integration Council and the country, until it was too late to intervene.

The Taliban had made no promises to anybody when they vandalised the Bamiyan Buddhas. The BJP and parivar ideologues used deceit. Neither act changed history or altered civilisational facts. Liberhan described the destruction as a deliberate, and premeditated conspiracy by the parivar and not something done spontaneously by a frenzied mob.

Chidambaram lamented the lack of even a semblance of remorse or shame. Indeed Kalyan Singh and members of the parivar asserted that there was nothing to regret. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, went further. Releasing a book on partition in Delhi on Dec 4, he said the “division of the sub-continent would have to be undone for everybody’s good”.
This is a highly inflammatory statement by one who appears intent on assuming direct control over the BJP behind the purdah of ‘cultural nationalism’ or Hindutva, based on the enunciation of the two-nation theory by Savarkar, a father figure for the parivar, as far back as 1927. What we are witnessing is a struggle for the soul of the BJP, to determine whether it should morph into a conservative, secular party or assume a more fascist and chauvinistic role. The demolition of the Babri masjid was part of this on-going struggle.

The Centre must expedite hearings on all the Ayodhya/Babri suits in various courts and work out an appropriate solution for what is essentially a political issue that is being used, like the Ram Setu matter, to invoke religious passions for political gain. The pandering to rank communalism in the in pursuit of vote bank politics — in which the Congress is equally adept — has resulted in hollowing out Indian secularism.

Emotional blackmail
Even as the Liberhan saga was unfolding, Telengana came on the boil with Chandrashekara Rao’s fast unto death. Such emotional blackmail must be severely discouraged as it bears no relation to Gandhi’s fasts at a time when the country was under alien rule and recourse to democratic consensus building was not possible.

If Rao can fast for his cause, so can others for the opposite cause or yet other ‘causes’. What then becomes of the democratic process? Though electoral support for Telengana has waned recently, the cause can certainly be canvassed. In this case, the means were wrong. The Centre was regrettably stampeded and has landed itself and the country in a pretty pickle.
The answer to vociferous demands for new states unleashed by the Telengana  contretemps is to appoint a new States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) with fiscal, administrative and economic experts (not judges or politicians) to report within six months on what might be done and how.

A case can be made out for Telengana on the ground that this could stimulate investment and employment in this relatively backward region. An autonomous development board for Telengana within Andhra, could be envisaged as provided for Maharashtra and Gujarat under Article 371. But statehood has a wider ambit and could be far more effective.
There is an optimal numerical and a real span for good governance and many states exceed these parameters. Small is not necessarily ideal, nor big bad. India will attain a population of 1,700 m in 50 years from now and could reasonably have 50-60 states, 1000-1500 districts and maybe 15,000 blocks for better and more inclusive participative government.
Simultaneously, zonal councils and other aggregative bodies of a functional nature (like railway zones, regional electricity grids, river basin authorities) could pull together different units for coordination and close cooperation.

Some argue that Hyderabad should be made a Union Territory. Why? The fact that it is an industrial hub and generates income is an insufficient reason. Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema could find or build new capitals, green field cities in a rapidly urbanising India. Having state capitals in metros is a nuisance.

New York and LA or San Francisco are not the capitals of New York state or California respectively. In an expanding urban environment, building a new city entails no additional cost. So we need to get real and not get into a tizzy over departures from the norm without forgetting the larger good or ends and means.

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