Southern grievances need to be addressed, but petty politics must not be played

Given that the Centre has suggested to the 15th Finance Commission to incentivise States that have succeeded in maintaining low populations, there is no need anymore to politicise the matter. Of late, several southern States which have done well in population control, had expressed apprehension that the methodology adopted by Finance Commissions would work against them when the panel allocated funds to them.

This may have been the case in the past. It happened because the Finance Commission sought to give primacy to States which had higher populations and thus greater challenges ahead in meeting the aspirations of a larger mass of people. The conventional wisdom was that States with manageable population levels could do with lower allocation of funds.

To the extent that higher populated States face problems of bigger proportions, the larger fund outflow is understandable. But States having lower population cannot be penalised, and more so when maintaining control over population levels ought to considered an achievement rather than a disincentivising factor. It is time to recalibrate the age-old position, and it is good that the Modi Government has offered its suggestion to the 15th Finance Commission.  It is to be hoped that the finance panel will consider the advice favourably and find ways to tackle the genuine grievance.

The Prime Minister’s clarification comes at a time when a clutch of southern States has been speaking in unison over what it sees as the Centre’s bias against the south. Part of this allegation is politically driven. An Assembly election is due in Karnataka, and the Congress regime there is naturally eager to score points against a resurgent BJP by hinting that the latter was working against the interests of the State’s people.

In Tamil Nadu, the ruling AIADMK is facing all kinds of internal problems and is desperate to deflect public attention from its woes. Popular actor Kamal Haasan, in his new avatar as a politician, is on an overdrive to establish his credentials, and one of the ways he has chosen to do so is to open a front against the Centre. His positions on the Cauvery water dispute, demonetisation etc are clear indicators of his resolve to confront the Modi regime. He has also spoken of a larger Dravida identity involving other southern States, and is seeking to pit that might against a ‘pro-north’ Centre. Similarly, ruling parties in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are exploring the possibility of an anti-BJP/anti-Congress alliance. Southern politics is indeed on the boil.