South’s shrinking political power & the women reservation bill

But the Sengol drew a blank on Nehru’s irreverence to the ultimate symbol of India’s transfer of power from the British.
Representational photo. (File | PTI)
Representational photo. (File | PTI)

India is on a relentless search for an anchor to establish a new tryst with destiny. From the Sengol to the women’s reservation bill, every celebration hopes to portend something ‘new’ and exciting. With the general elections around the corner, such political pageants are not something unanticipated. Potentially, it is India’s chrysalis moment, entranced inside the mesmerising golden glow, forever waiting to metamorphose into an adult.

But the Sengol drew a blank on Nehru’s irreverence to the ultimate symbol of India’s transfer of power from the British. The incongruity between the pace with which the new parliament lapped up the reservation bill and the apathy, on the other side, over a series of clauses (call them hurdles) the government has linked it to has now set the critics wagging: How can a historic bill that is passed after a 27-year-long wait with so much fanfare be dispatched to a freezer for 4-5 years?

In the ‘new’ era, the hullabaloo over ‘Sanatana Dharma’ seems to have taken a break, with a promise to be reincarnated in full glory later, maybe closer to the elections. Allegations that the President of Bharat was not invited to the new parliament because she is a “widow and tribal” have been buried alive. In the meantime, the temple of democracy has been promptly purified by an unparliamentary tirade. The G20 euphoria has drowned in the Indo-Canadian diplomatic deluge that ensued. The “extra 2ab” from the famous (a+b)2 Modi analogy has no takers now.

Soon after the historic bill was passed, the south of Vindhyas wrapped itself in exasperation. The joy of clearing the bill with a massive mandate slipped into an unimaginable disquiet. Not for the overt Hindisation of titles such as ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Abhiniyam’. The two mandatory clauses in the bill — the delimitation process and the national census — have all the potential to deepen the South-North divide further. If the process of redrawing LS constituencies is done based on the census, the southern states that have skilfully regulated the population growth are bound to get hurt. That is a no-brainer. Their northern brethren are likely to gain political supremacy at their cost.

A furious discussion on the South-North divide may not auger well for the BJP. With a majority of its MPs coming from the North (counting 135 from UP, MP, Bihar, and Gujarat), it is yet to shrug off the ‘North-Indian party’ tag. In an interview with this writer in 2022, Palanivel Thiaga Rajan (PTR) said allocating funds from the divisible pool of taxes based on the population is a reward to those who failed in their population control measures.

Southern states have grown faster and contribute larger revenues to the central kitty. The revenue-sharing formula has always been a source of dispute. A quick perusal of the sharing math — the amount each state got for every rupee they contributed to the central taxes in 2021-22 — bares the truth. For every rupee that Tamil Nadu contributes, it gets back 29 paise. Karnataka gets nearly half of it — 15 paise. Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, get 43 paise, 49 paise, and 57 paise, respectively. On the flip side, northern states sit pretty: Bihar gets the highest (Rs 7.06) while UP gets Rs 2.73, and Madhya Pradesh gets Rs 2.42.
This has not prevented southern states from marching ahead in women’s empowerment.

Parameters such as education, health, life expectancy, participation in the workforce, and maternal mortality rate speak volumes of their successes. Southern states, financially discriminated against by the centre, truly dread that Delhi’s move to go for the delimitation process after the census may thwart its already diminishing political power. MK Stalin has called it a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the heads of Tamil Nadu and the rest of south India.

A fight against muzzling their political voice is on the cards.

Anto T Joseph
Resident Editor, Tamil Nadu

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