The representation of the southern states in the Union cabinet is meagre. This is related to the poor performance of the BJP in the south, save Karnataka. Of the 130 seats, the BJP drew a blank in Andhra, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu.
Four cabinet berths have been provided for Karnataka. This includes Nirmala Sitharaman, a member of the Rajya Sabha. Three ministers of state are allotted, one each for Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana.
The BJP-led alliance parties in Tamil Nadu returned just O P Raveendranath Kumar. There were also aspirants from the Rajya Sabha. Due to lack of consensus among the party leaders in time on the nominee, a possible berth to AIADMK in the Central ministry was lost. Prime Minister Modi could have looked for talent outside the political parties in
Tamil Nadu as he did in choosing the brilliant S Jaishankar.
AIADMK CAN FIELD JAISHANKAR TO THE RAJYA SABHA
Some consolation is sought to be derived from the inclusion of the two Tamils, Nirmala, and Jaishankar, as cabinet ministers. But both had moved out of the state years back with no moorings here. Their membership through the Rajya Sabha is also from outside Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK would do well to nominate Jaishankar from its Rajya Sabha quota.
In Kerala power has been alternating between the LDF led by the CPM and the UDF led by the Congress. In Tamil Nadu, for 52 years, power has been wielded by the DMK and the AIADMK. In both these states, BJP has no roots. In the undivided Andhra Pradesh, the BJP aligned with the TDP. The partnership worked well until the state was split into Andhra and Telangana. The TRS that spearheaded the agitation and succeeded with the bifurcation got away with the more prosperous regions, including Hyderabad. TDP’s Naidu broke with the BJP on his demand for special status not met by the Centre.
The severe drubbing the TDP got at the hands of the YSRCP is bound to witness a lot of recriminations over the large spends made by the TDP government on AP’s mega projects. Citing the bad shape of finances of AP, Jagan Reddy has also been making a strong pitch for special category status. One of the reasons cited by Reddy is the debt burden of the state shooting up from Rs 97,000 crore at the time of bifurcation in 2014 to Rs 2.6 lakh crore by March 2019.
A sad feature of fiscal administration by states relate to public debt mounting due to the reckless expansion of populist freebies. The several populist measures announced by states are not related to the strength of the states’ revenues. Tamil Nadu provides the lead. With public debt ballooning from Rs 100,000 crore to around Rs 400,000 crore in eight years. Such a situation makes it difficult for the Centre to accord special status to AP.
With the strides made by BJP, there is pressure on the unstable equilibrium of the Karnataka government. The continuous friction between the Congress and JD(U) are contributing to doubts over the survival of the present government over the full term.
DMK AND AMMK WORK TO TOPPLE AIADMK GOVT
The position in Tamil Nadu is not much different. The split in the AIADMK after the demise of J Jayalalithaa has resulted in a slender majority to AIADMK in the state legislature. The DMK-led alliance had remarkable success in the recent elections. There are concerted efforts by the splinter AMMK, led by TTV Dinakaran and the DMK, to wean members of the ruling party away which could cause the fall of the government. With the state earning a reputation for its divisive polity manifested in frequent and massive agitations, there is concern over the ruling party fighting for survival. This will affect development initiatives.
Telangana Chief Minister Chandrashekar Rao advanced elections to the assembly and was returned with a thumping majority. He worked to build a strong opposition to both the Congress and the BJP. But he didn’t succeed in Lok Sabha elections. While his son K T Rama Rao is a Minister, his daughter Kavitha lost the contest for a seat in the Lok Sabha. KCR’s administration has earned a reputation for efficiency. He would do well to focus on this as does Navin Patnaik and put aside his efforts on becoming a national leader.
The southern leaders belonging to different parties would do well to make joint efforts to advance the region’s interests.