Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Re: Southern Economic Union

Now, my take on the question I raised yesterday:

Do you think the economic union, which is now a purely bureaucratic interaction of the four Chief Secretaries, would grow into a stronger bond, and eventually, take political undertones as regionalism? If you think so, do you think it would be a positive development? If not, what makes u think it will not happen?
Yes. I certainly see that happening if the states can get over initial, essentially economic irritants like Cauvery. There are very many reasons for this:

* These states are linguistically similar and different from the rest of India - one strong basis for bonding.

* The states have one big threat looming over them - possible political marginalization in electoral arithmetic somewhere in the future. Let me explain this. If India had delimited its Lok Sabha constituency maps in 2000, as it should have, all these states, owing to their decline in population growth, would have had less constituencies, while the north would have had more. To handle this, the Parliament has, by 91st Amendment, froze the delimitation exercise till 2026. Already, such a freeze existed till 2000, meaning, the constituencies we have today represent the figures from the 1971 census - when none of us were evn born! This amendment's legality could still be questioned, based on say, the Baker V Carr case in the US (it will most probably be admissible as a precedent in Indian courts). If, one day, the SC rules that such freeze on delimitation goes against the constitution (as it happened in Carr case), we could be in trouble! It would mean that TN alone will lose 7 seats out of its quota of 39! And UP will gain 4 over its already humongous 81.

* WRT the economy, these states are among the fastest growing and modernizing states. Which means that they are going to demand in future that the north not pull them back in the name of equality. The only way they can do this is to come up with a united lobby - which is what I think this Union would become politically.

* Most leaders from the region are young people, possibly aspiring for bigger future in Delhi. A strong lobby like that would help boost their standing in Delhi.

Assuming this does happen, what do you think would be the response of other fast growing states like Maharashtra and Gujarat to this development? Do you think we will, say, have a Western Economic Union? Or do you think Maharashtra will gravitate towards the South?
Maharashtra is a tossup. It could decide that its economic fortunes would be better served if they go with the SEU. I think this would happen if say, NCP comes to power. Or, it could go with the culturally closer west/north. Frankly, it will depend on who comes to power in Mumbai. Gujarat going with SEU is a long shot. Besides cultural and geographical problems, Gujarat is far too conservative for the SEU.

Most interestingly, what do you think will be effect on the cow belt states to a challenge to their dominance over Indian polity from the South?
There would definitely be outrage to south's manipulation etc. Till date, neither Bihar, nor UP has done anything to modernize. And I am not going to believe that they would be nudged now.

In a related question, if you are a southerner, do you think the south has been prejudiced against in the Indian polity?
Oh yes! At least, when it comes to the Prime Ministership. Did I hear some one say rotating PMship among regions?


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