Monday, June 16, 2008

28 states... and counting?

There have been many moments over the past month that I have wanted to sit and write my blog. On a more personal note, I want to change my blog around. Its too static -- I want to have more regular posts, frequent updates on news (articles I like etc) and probably a vodcast (?) whats it called? I feel too old for the internet sometimes -- shocking, I know. Anyone want to join me in this casual but regular online magazine, please email me at:, and we can talk about starting a new blog together. I know there are a lot of collective blogs out there, why not try it out for size? You know what I write about, so you can imagine the content. Let me know, it might be fun!

Anyway, to what got me out here. Any guesses? Narendra Modi. I mean, Obama almost did but Jon Stewart always says what I wish I could and then it just feels like repeating. But, yes, Modi challenging the center -- don't collect our taxes and don't bother giving us funds. And what next? Make Gujarat his personal fiefdom? (Make Gujarat? I suppose he could not make this claim unless it already was.)

So Pratap Bhanu Mehta has written a really interesting piece in today's Indian Express -- Modi's secession? Read it. The talks about the center-state economic relations, and how what Modi has said ties in to a larger point about where this relationship is heading. Could, Punjab, for instance, make this claim at a later point? Is this the first of many? Not secession based on religion or ethnicity -- ironically when I saw this on TV, it followed a report on the demand for Gorkhaland -- and my family was arguing about whether the centre should not just allow it, seeing as how they allowed UP to be broken up. So, what is this? Economic secession now? Hmm.

Mehta might have made a sound academic argument, and perhaps looking at a micro statement in the macro scheme of things is the rational way forward, but I can't help but be fascinated with the specifics of the situation.

I have a friend in Gujarat at the moment, and I asked him what he thought of the statement. He told me that if you ask anyone here (Ahmedabad), they swear by Modi. Why not, he said, since you have to come and see their roads and other infrastructure. But his problem is this whole going national agenda, that's where he might fall. What is alright in his little corner might not be so acceptable on the national stage.

I do remember thinking (or did I mention this in a post too) that if he tones down his anti-Muslim rhetoric and concentrates on economics, he has a fighting chance to become PM some day. But although this last statement is economic in nature (if you insist on reading it that way, anyway) there is no doubt that it is highly political too. To make such a remark -- that Gujarat doesn't need "India", only itself, is worrying.

So I looked to the press to find some method in the madness, and except for Mehta's piece in the Indian Express, I didn't really find anything of note. Odd, because unless there was some internal memo to the press to let the moment pass -- shouldn't someone be pointing out both, the enormous ego of Modi and the unbelievably limp government we have year? Or are we just tired of doing that anyway? But again, Swapan Dasgupta has also responded to the statements with an economic explanation. He thinks under the banners of 'equitable growth' we have rewarded mediocrity. Ok. But what I don't understand is this: Granted that Gujarat pays heavy tax -- money that goes to poorer states (but this being India, gets squandered), then to save such useless outflow, Gujarat should stop paying the centre any tax, and in return not receive any grants. But my question is this: when what becomes the relationship of Gujarat to the country? If there are no economic obligations, only cultural and other ties, then its as good as another country to us, isn't it? Is that why Modi followed up this statement with "let them try me for sedition?" -- because he knew thats what he was suggesting in theory???

I asked the same friend, but why has the press not responded to this point. He said its probably because the press -- if attacking him -- will bring up riots, Hindutva and communalism again, and Modi can brush that away quite easily by saying they are only stirring up old arguments. So is ignorning his more flammable statements the way to go? Perhaps. People like me would fall into that trap I'm sure, but I'll try not to. Instead I'll ask the rest of you what you think.

The Congress as responded by telling Modi to stop telling lies (and go stand in the corner and face the wall too?) and that statements such as his will lead to the balkanization of the country.
If they believed that -- or if they had balls -- they could file that case of sedition now, couldn't they?