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North and South: India needs true federalism

North and South: India needs true federalism

Yeddyurappa is a former chief minister from the BJP. BJP's response on the issue was that Congress need not overstress it to capitalize on it, and everybody knew that it was just an slip of the tongue.

But the factor behind that slip merits serious discussion, that is, the distance between those of south India and north India which is said to be increasing. As pointed out by many, would Amit Shah have made such a big mistake in north India, since the names Siddaramaiah and Yeddyurappa sounded almost alike. It is with such distance that they all see south Indian communities and identities. And the sociologists who contradict the thesis that it is the Hindutva forces that gain dominance during BJP regime, also underline the same point: what is currently happening is the imposition of northern culture, habits and language on southern states. They think that even within BJP, this does exist.

The reading that the north Indian political forces are trying to win political and cultural supremacy under the cover of nationalism, gained strength when several instances of imposing Hindi arose during the BJP rule. But now another decision that is going to have still greater repercussion, has come from Finance Commission. What the Commission has changed is the criteria for determining the share received by states from the taxes collected by the Centre. So far the revenue was distributed according to the figures of 1971 census; but now on it will be according to the 2011 census. This means that when the revenue is shared based on 2011 census, southern states' share will dwindle considerably. There was an understanding reached in 1970 between the Centre and the states that the distribution in future would be all as per the 1971 census. Anything contrary to this was viewed as something that would encourage population increase. Many leaders including Siddaramaiah point out that now when the population ratio of southern states has come down over the last forty years, the decision is going to be a disadvantage to them. In fact the major share of tax revenue is contributed by the southern states; but when it comes to its distribution, they are pushed behind.

That wealth should flow from the rich to the poor in order to end economic inequality, is a sound concept. That however has to be applied in the policies regarding economic expenditure. As observed by many it is an unfair situation when the efficiency of southern states becomes their loss and the inefficiency of the northern states becomes their gain. More than that, there is also the argument that there are signs of the federal system getting torpedoed to a such an extent as to pose a threat to the very unity of India. When the northern states exert influence on the central government, and the Centre imposes authoritarian policies, that is bound to create uneasiness among southern states. The unilateralism now seen in the economic front may soon escalate to the political sphere. When the number of Lok Sabha seats are re-determined in 2026, the census figures of 2021 will be used. Thus when the seats of south Indian states decrease significantly, their political importance in the national scene will also weaken. Already, there are signs of anxiety among southern states about the possibility of being pushed back in tax revenue and political representation. Thus for the future of the country, strengthening federalism becomes an immediate need. The elections in Karnataka, Amit Shah's slip of the gongue, and the decision of oFinance Commission have started putting certain fingerposts to the times to come.

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