On the evening of June 21st, when the news came out that Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and JP Nadda went to meet Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, a couple of Telugu media channels started speculating that he will be made the next President. By night, we knew that the NDA has announced Droupadi Murmu as the Presidential candidate.
One of the staunch Pro-TDP (and therefore anti-BJP) Telugu newspaper/channel, ABN Andhrajyothy, was severely upset that Venkaiah Naidu was not the chosen one. They printed a story on how Modi has consistently ignored him despite Venkaiah Naidu standing by Modi during his toughest times. Not content with just printing their baseless story, they hosted a debate on their prime-time show – “Is the dominance of North-Indian political parties crossing all limits?”
There were a total of 5 people on the panel, including the host, the popular Venkata Krishna (VK). The only political party representative invited was from the BJP. VK and the other three apolitical panellists all held the same views – views that have been baselessly parroted by a tiny but loud minority for over 5 years and that is basically calling for dividing India into two – North India and South India.
The program begins with a monologue from the host, VK. In a very sombre tone, he asks what use Nationalism is if inequalities exist in the country. He changes tone and now exhorts that “excellent resources of some states are being looted by some particular states”! And because you are now left wondering who looted what, he asks us specifically “who is getting the gas resources from Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna-Godavari basin?” And then emphatically claims that “Andhra Pradesh should be getting a royalty of 2 lakh crores per year. Is anyone giving that?” Before you can digest this information, he jumps topic and asks why Karnataka and Tamil Nadu should continually fight for the Kaveri waters (apparently, this is a North-South problem because the central government hasn’t solved this so far!)
While you are still trying to make a connection to the various points that he has listed in just under 3 minutes, he goes on to introduce his loaded panel, 3 of whom repeatedly and angrily expressed the same views, most of the time filled with lies. It is worthwhile to note that all through the program, this map kept flashing on their screen.
Two of the panellists were severely upset that “South India’s son”, Venkaiah Naidu, has not been made the President of India and termed this as a deliberate insult to South India by North Indian parties. You would expect the host to tell them that six sons of South India held the post of the President of India (2 of them were even from the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh).
One of the panellists even questioned why North Indian politicians didn’t make Droupadi Murmu the Vice-Presidential candidate instead of the Presidential candidate. You would expect the host to tell him that Droupadi Murmu is from Odisha, which by no stretch of the imagination in North India.
The panellists also fell back on their oft-repeated rants on Gujarat and Gujaratis, yet again forgetting that Gujarat is by no stretch of imagination neither a North-Indian state nor a Hindi state! One of them thundered “Why will they spend 3000 crores for a Gujarati’s statue and not for a Telugu’s statue?” You would expect the host, VK, to tell them that 90% of the costs of the Statue of Unity project were borne by the Gujarat government and not the Government of India.
The panellist continues – “They are only now spending 3 crores for a 30 ft statue of Alluri Seetharama Raju. This discrimination by North Indian parties is startling”. You would expect VK to thunder and ask what stopped the state government of Andhra Pradesh from building similar memorials for our heroes?
Another one thundered “Why is every policy in this country being formulated with only Adani and Ambani in mind? Are the resources of this country the exclusive property of Gujaratis?” You would expect VK to list the long list of great industrialists from South India who have contributed immensely to our country. Instead, VK joins them in spreading more lies – “75% of posts in this government are occupied by Gujaratis. 25% are by the remaining”.
Panellists after panellists were simply going all over the place in trying to sound intellectual in their arguments. “Why can’t the country have 5 Deputy Prime Ministers for 5 different regions?” shouted one of them. “Why has the Supreme Court not established benches in 5 parts of the country?”, continued the other. You are still left wondering what this has got to with North Indian politicians. You would expect that VK would actually tell these clueless panellists that the current CJI is from South India and that the country has had Prime Ministers who were from South India, but then you realise that VK is also as clueless.
About 25 minutes after the “debate” begins, the BJP spokesperson was given a chance to speak. And within just a minute, he gets interrupted. He is never allowed to finish anything he begins to say. He wants to cite the improvement in Railways in Southern states (because VK explicitly brings in Kanimozhi’s recent ill-informed comment in Parliament on Railway allocations) but he is shouted down. He calls the premise of this whole debate wicked and evil, and immediately VK bursts out – “How dare you call this evil? We are in a democracy; I can have feelings of suffocation and want the division of the country. But you cannot and should not call this evil.” Yes, he actually said that.
We all remember PM Modi’s famous jibe comparing Renuka Chowdary’s cackling in Rajya Sabha to Soorpanaka. VK asks if Modi was implying that a South Indian female politician belongs to the “Community of Rakshasas”? Well, doesn’t VK know that it was Venkaiah Naidu who was presiding over the proceedings when this happened? Given the whole premise of this debate was around Venkaiah Naidu, how does VK get away with such nonsense?
However, the seeds for this illogical debate have been planted back in 2017 by English media such as The Wire and The News Minute. They claim that South India is superior to everyone else in the country because “After all, 20% of the population contributes a full 30% of India’s tax revenues.” By this logic, the humungous infrastructure development in the North-East should not have been taken up by the Government of India because you see, they don’t contribute much to the tax revenues. “The South also delivers a fourth of India’s GDP.”, we were told. So what? Should every state start making this claim now? Should Maharashtra go and say that it contributes more than Madhya Pradesh so it should be made a separate country? Or just within South India, should Karnataka say it contributes more than Kerala and therefore should be a separate entity?
“It is becoming almost untenable for Tamil Nadu and Kerala to thrive in the Indian union as rational, self-interested sub-units.”, screamed the author in The Wire in the year 2018. Almost all of these articles bring up the point of population control that was effectively done by the Southern states as compared to Northern states and therefore South states are suffering for actually doing good work. The panellists in yesterday’s TV debate also screamed at the top of their lungs about this point.
Well, guess what? The Modi government made significant and far-reaching changes to the devolution formula in “proposing measurable performance-based incentives for States” in the 15th Finance Commission report (applicable for 2020 to 2025). A total of 9 parameters were decided on which such incentives will be decided, and this included “Efforts and Progress made in moving towards replacement rate of population growth”. A very detailed article on the revolutionary changes bought in by the 15th Finance Commission can be read here. And it is also significant to note the very derisive tone of the English media in criticizing these same changes.
Politicians and media affiliated with TDP in Andhra Pradesh picked up these articles back then and made a lot of noise around them. Pawan Kalyan was at the forefront in furthering these illogical pieces (he is now in alliance with the BJP!). The panellists in the TV debate also bought up the manner in which the state was bifurcated by the “North Indian” parties – none of them could get to bring themselves to criticize the Congress and Sonia Gandhi directly for this. In fact, the debate didn’t even have politicians from any party except the BJP.
Going by these debates, we will even tend to forget that the East and West cease to exist! Recently, Prashant Kishor emphatically claimed that the “Hindi heartland has now extended to Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka”. The TV panellists in the debate included Odisha and Gujarat in North India. Your mind really boggles at how the analysts are altering basic concepts of geography, language, and common sense!
All these “analysts” also make the fundamental assumption that the 5 southern states (they always exclude Puchucherry) function as one entity and the role of the BJP and Congress is negligible. Tamil Nadu has a problem, they want to make it a South India problem. Kerala has a problem, they make it a South India problem. Both the national parties (and also the Communists) are big players in some of these states – do the analysts really think the people are so ignorant that they cannot see through this basic fact?
While the program was on, the host VK got upset with live comments that said what he was doing amounted to Desh-Droh. He derisively asked if any of those commenting like this even know what is “Desh”? This arrogance and know-it-all attitude is so very typical of editors and self-declared intellectuals. It is time we expose and shame these charlatans for furthering a divisive agenda in our nation.