In recent years, Indian political narrative has witnessed a marked shift in its stance towards the values of secularism, regionalism and federalism. Comment. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • Although the question is highly subjective (and you are completely free to take whatever stance you want to take), it offers crucial insights into the realpolitik of present India. It also helps us understand the nature of Indian society, and how it associates itself with secularism, regionalism and federalism.
  • The question wants us to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and discuss how the Indian political narrative has developed in recent years and whether there is a marked shift in its stance towards the values of secularism, regionalism and federalism. We have to bring out reasons/ arguments/ facts in support of our answer and accordingly form our opinion.
  • In the introduction, write a few lines about the constitutional status of federalism and secularism, and their role along with regionalism in Indian politics( how significant they have been in shaping Indian political narrative).
  • In the main body, discuss how each of the three aspects- secularism, regionalism and federalism has shaped and in turn being shaped by the political narrative in India in recent years. E.g discuss the spurt in sporadic communal events and lack of political will to speak against/ or politicize the issue; decline in the political value of communal strategies; disaffection of Right-wing parties with the incumbent government; rising disaffection of the regional parties with the present party in power leading to regionalism; decline in the political clout of the Congress; issues affecting federalism like the terms of reference of the 15th finance commission, water disputes; special status of AP etc.
  • Based on your discussion form a fair and a balanced opinion on the issue.

Answer:

India being a big nation with huge diversity, regionalism is inevitable. Regionalism in acceptable levels produce positive results like growth and development of the region. India is a country of religions. There exist multifarious religious groups in the country but, in spite of this, the Constitution stands for a secular state of India. There is no official religion in India. ‘Secularism’ has been inserted in the Preamble after the 42nd Amendment. The constitution has divided the legislative authority via 7th schedule {Union, State, and Concurrent Lists}. The residuary powers are vested in the Central government.

How is the shift happening:-

Secularism:-

  • Muslims and other minorities are becoming increasingly imperilled and marginalized continued widespread communalism and communal violence in several parts of the country which lead to many deaths
  • Protests to ban cow slaughter leading to curtailment of freedom of persons to eat and restricting their freedom to carry on any profession and trade, etc.
  • Certain Political parties in India use religion and caste factors for the promotion of their political interest despite a ban on the communal electorates and use of religion for soliciting votes

Regionalism:-

  • The recent trends of increasing regionalism is giving out negative results and has become a threat to national unity. The following are the ways in which regionalism is posing the integrity of nation:
    • Emergence of regional political parties as a result of secessionist tendencies. This trend is polarising citizens of the country on regional lines.
    • Its effect on legislation and executive is also evident. To maintain the majority in the house, the ruling party has to form a coalition with regional parties. This is leading to a situation where regional demand is portrayed as national demand.
  • International diplomacy is also affected to a great level due to weak centre and coalition government. Previous governments were forced to abstain from attending commonwealth heads meeting in Sri Lanka due to the animosity between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.
  • Mass mobilisation for regional causes is taking a violent turn. Non-violent means to achieve the ends are transformed to violent means. The recent bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh saw violent agitations across the state which caused huge damage to public property.
  • Regionalism reached that stage where it is equivalent to be an internal security threat to the country. It is causing friction among states.
  • The hostility is being established on grounds of boundary disputes, irrigation issues, etc.
  • The great dispute on sharing of Kaveri river water between states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is never-ending. Recent attacks on the Tamil people in Karnataka show how relations between states affect innocent civilians.
  • Citizen’s fundamental rights are also affected by regionalism. Migrants from one state to another state are attacked on the backdrop of regionalism. This violates the freedom to move and
  • settle anywhere in the country.
  • Examples are present everywhere in different scales, from civilian attacks on North East state natives in the country’s capital to organised ULFA militants against Bihari and Bengali migrants.
  • Recent demands like four fold-division of Uttar Pradesh and the creation of Gorkhaland from West Bengal are instances of aggressive regionalism that pose a threat to the federal structure of India.

Federalism:-

  • Some of the chief ministers has also been vocal in criticising the Central government for taxing the southern States to spend on the northern States. Terms of reference of the 15th finance commission have been criticised.
  • The Centre’s direction to use the 2011 Census instead of the 1971 Census for population data has riled the south. As the population in these States has stabilised, the concern is that their share of tax allocation would reduce.
  • While the flexible nature of federalism under the Constitution has served India well, the continued existence of provisions such as Article 356 (President’s rule) goes against the grain of federalism
  • States such as Karnataka have asserted their linguistic and cultural rights in the wake of the Centre’s interventions such as a promotion of Hindi.
  • The subject classification in the seventh schedule has not been fair, particularly with respect to 11th and 12th schedules (local governments). The third tier of governance is totally dependent on second-tier which itself is totally dependent on the first tier

Way forward:-

  • There is a need for proper fiscal federalism in real sense up to grass root level.
  • Centre-state relations should be such that centre interferes in matters of states only in unavoidable national interests.
  • There should be a system of national education that helps to overcome regional feelings and develop an attachment towards the nation. Obviously, each has its own issues and challenges.

Finally, unless the concerns regarding fairness are addressed from constitutional, financial and cultural fronts, the fault lines developing in our federation could deepen further.

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