The honeymoon is finally over for Modi
For four long years the entire southern India has endured Modi’s step-motherly treatment in terms of allocation of funds and infrastructure projects, and his heavy handed use of justice system as a tool to inflict political vendetta on regional leaders. Over these four years, South has received fewer funds (all of south India that is) than Modi’s native state of Gujarat alone. This in spite of the fact that the five major southern states have contributed more than fifty percent of India’s total GDP over the same period. Talk about robbing Peter to Pay Paul.
I have personally supported Modi whole-heatedly, which in hindsight was a mistake I will have to live with. In my defense, I, like most Indians didn’t have a choice. The other choice is the utterly imbecile Rahul Gandhi of the congress party, who I wouldn’t hire to sell stamps at a post office. So Modi was my only choice, and I was more than enthusiastic to support him. I knew of his fundamentalist mindset, and his crafty approach to politics, yet I chose to overlook them in return for development he so deftly projected. Another sin from my end, to ignore the warning bells from my more liberal and impartial friends, but I chose to give Modi the benefit of the doubt.
I defended him even when India’s elite went after him with ridiculous claims of “Award wapsi”. I blindly supported him when Modi cancelled the existing currency denominations, and I even went with him on GST. But, there were more warning bells, louder and more frequent, which I simply couldn’t ignore any longer. Modi, who once looked like a true statesman and an unselfish, open-minded man (we all saw his antics in the immediate aftermath of his election. His reaching out to the opposition leaders, world leaders, and the invitations to all neighboring countries). He was, as someone dubbed him at the time, India’s own John F Kennedy. (Without the boozing and the womanizing of course)
Our fears started coming true
But, if we take another look at the past four years of his government, we can clearly see how Modi managed to squander his mandate. How he not only failed to bridge the gap between North and South, but actually made the division worse. When none of the southern states even remotely received the kind of assistance they deserved from the center, while states like Gujarat and Maharashtra got lions shares of Centers monies, it became very clear that Modi wants to play politics with development.
Modi’s re-litigation of the “Hindi” as a national language debate was absolutely uncalled for. You do not impose a language, nor a religion on anyone, not in this day and age. His and his party’s continued attempts to force Hindi on us, was the original harbinger of Modi’s more fundamentalist ideas to come.
Using corruption cases as leverage; jailing those who won't listen to him.
He then used the legal system to play politics as well. It began with a miraculous acquittal of the then CM of Tamilnad, Jayalalithaa by a court of appeals, and then six months after her death, another mysterious conviction of a co-accused in the same exact case, Shashikala. Far be it for me to defend a degenerate corruption queen like Shashikala, but the point is the fact that Modi used India’s courts to gain leverage on regional politicians. Shashikala rotting in a jail cell is the best outcome that people like me hoped for decades, but there is such a thing as “doing the right thing for the wrong reasons”. Modi made her go to jail, not the courts. Not directly anyway, and that was my problem. And immediately after that, the accused in the 3G scam, (a billion dollar scam that saw wireless spectrums stolen from India’s public) were summarily acquitted. These are the people who worked in the congress government and were arrested by their own government, and spent time in jail during the congress government. Let that sink in. They spent more time in jail during congress government than they did during Modi’s so called corruption-free government. Talk about tall promises.
BJP has been in coalition politics before, and they behaved honestly and with integrity during the two terms under the great Vajpayee. However, Modi and Amit Shah came in with a different agenda this time. Armed with a solid majority and not really needing their partners for survival, they unleashed their aggressive plans to expand rapidly into the south.
There is nothing wrong for a national party to want to make inroads into all areas. However, the way they are doing it is the problem here. Instead of focusing on taking their message to the masses, BJP and Modi have resorted to blackmail, legal harassment and the worst of it all, holding up funds meant for development.
South India used to be the powerhouse of political leaders. The larger-than-life, the legendary NTR was singlehandedly the most recognizable leader of the masses from Andhra Pradesh, and the neighboring Tamilnad has its own crop of powerful leaders. Karnataka with Deve Gowda, and Kerala’s communists have put up a great fight with the dynastical arrogance of Congress party. In the current generation, Andhra Pradesh’s Chandra Babu Naidu looms large, having once lead the coaliation of all non-congress parties and playing the kingmaker more than a few times at the center. Even though regional by nature, these southern leaders teamed up when they had to and proved to be a strong force in standing up to the congress. The BJP, which took a very long time to be where it is today, has actually benefitted from the strength of these regional parties when it alone was not strong enough to fight the congress. They leaned heavily on the south to meet the numbers required to form goventments at the center. And to their credit, leaders like Vayapayye, Advani and Sushma lived by their word and the governance was more or less fair to everyone. Each partner got their fair share in allocations and projects, and everyone got a seat at the decision making table. What changed?
- No party in the south is now in a position to command enough seats to be a significant player. No more king-makers like Chandra Babu.
- BJP got enough seats this time to not depend on others.
- Amit Shah and Modi were more fundamentalist than they let out.
- They had a hidden agenda of encroaching into areas that belonged to their allies.
- They had no qualms about using legal system to gain leverage on strong local leaders.
- They are not afraid to play politics with development.
TDP was no longer a force it once was after the bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. TRS, though very strong in Telangana still didn’t have enough seats of its own to cause any damage to BJP’s legislative agenda. TN has a farcical government with incessant infighting, encouraged by the heavy handed tactics of Modi. So, All of a sudden, we find ourselves with the southern states running rudderless, while Modi is literally allocating all available resources to the “Hindi” belt and Gujarat.
How do we fight this gross injustice? How can the south get its fair share of development when there is a fundamentalist at the helm?
It is time for a grand alliance of the southern states. They have to rise up against the religious and regionalist party that BJP has become. United, there should be a common agreement between all parties, that when it comes to the union government, they all stand together and vote together, irrespective of their local political affiliations.
Time for a grand Southern Alliance
Imagine an alliance between TDP, DMK, AIDMK, TRS and all other local parties, that they will shut out BJP in their respective states, and will be a united voting bloc in the parliament. With more than 200 MP seats among the five southern states, such an alliance will send shockwaves to the center. It will ensure that the development efforts and projects will be distributed equally among all states, not just the Hindi speaking ones, and those where the state government is run by the BJP. It will ensure fairness.
This is the only way going forward. Industrious and entrepreneurial southern states have long suffered under the congress, and now the BJP. We do all the hard work, we are 70% of India’s GDP, we pay more than our fair share in taxes, and in the end, we get screwed by the ones at the center. Not anymore. Time for the southern states to rise up in one voice.