The argument in defence of small states is that these sub-regions, which have remained underdeveloped as part of large states, can tackle developmental issues better. Hence the argument that size matters and small states can focus their attention on development because they are nearer to the people. So the agitation for Telangana. However, in spite of six options given by the Justice Srikrishna Commission, which was set up to look into the Telangana tangle, the Centre has not been able to arrive at any conclusive decision.
The Constitution-makers had made elaborate provisions for dealing with such sub-regional demands by laying down a provision for the establishment of territorial administration without partitioning a state, and this provision has been in operation in Bodoland, Gorkhaland et al. A Telangana Territorial Administration can be set up with 'special status' for 10 backward districts of the region.
A few things must be pointed out. First, small states with 80-100 MLAs have a history of political instability because the defection of a few MLAs can bring down the government. The relatively new small state of Haryana, created in 1966, had gained notoriety for practising the 'politics of Aya Ram-Gaya Ram' (here today, gone tomorrow).
The latest to join the ranks of unstable states is Jharkhand. The state has experienced President's rule three times and eight governments have been formed in the state during the 12 years of its existence and the President had to suspend the assembly on January 18.
Second, the assertion that small states can manage development challenges better than large ones has not been substantiated. In the age of globalisation, every chief minister is competing for investment, and in this atmosphere of competition, the size of a state does not have any special advantage. The best illustration of the fact that investments flow in only if investors are given special incentives and the size of the state is not relevant was proved on January 11 at the sixth bi-annual Vibrant Gujarat Summit. Hence, a separate state of Telangana is not at all on the agenda of investors and solutions to regional backwardness can be found only within the existing state boundaries.
Third, it is not far-fetched to state that the proposed bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh is a signal to many other local regional bosses to spearhead similar movements. Is India prepared for violent, parochial and sub-regional movements manipulated by local powerbrokers? Has Maoism ended with the creation of a Chhattisgarh or a Jharkhand?
It is also a tall, even fallacious, argument that democracy will be deepened by creating small states. None of the small states has practised any new model of democracy different from the all-India democratic political system.
The Congress, as an inheritor of Nehru's legacy, should tread very cautiously because the former prime minister's experience with the states' re-organisation, beginning in 1956, was not at all happy and he had witnessed emotive, competitive and even violent, regional and sub-regional struggles for the creation of new states. This history is likely to repeat itself. Further, the Congress should also know that its real ideological antagonist and adversary, the BJP, does not believe in linguistic-cultural diversity and plurality of India and the Sangh parivar wants 50 or more 'administrative units' to be established. MS Golwalkar, the guru of the RSS, had stated in 1948 that India should have a centralised, presidential system with 'administrative units' for maintaining and defending the unity and territorial integrity of the whole Hindu rashtra.
The choice before the country is between Nehru's pluralist, secular and federal democracy or Golwalkar and his disciples' idea of a Hindu India where regional and 'sub-regional' autonomies will be a thing of the past.
CP Bhambhri taught politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal