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Only ‘mini-Indias’ in its metropolises can prevent it from sliding into a nativist abyss

During the Greater Hyderabad municipal corporation elections late last year, home minister Amit Shah said something interesting that was lost in the din of local demands. Months after the KCR government in the state had moved towards quotas for locals in employment opportunities, Shah said his party wanted to make Hyderabad a “mini-India”.

At a press conference in Hyderabad on November 29, Shah made two important points. One, he said, BJP would bring good governance to the grassroots and take steps to make Hyderabad a “major IT hub of the world”. Two, and more important, he said, the party would turn the city into “a modern hi-tech city” and create “a mini-India”.

Uday Deb

The immediate context for this reference may have been BJP’s answer to “the Nawab and Nizam culture”. But the “mini-India” template that Shah talked about is important for various reasons. For one, India’s urban centres that promise to be the engines of future growth and prosperity are also being torn apart by nativist tendencies, and, therefore, must be included in this larger conversation.

Take the example of Haryana, where a BJP CM, ML Khattar, has brought in a law reserving 75% of low- and middle-level private sector jobs for locals of the state. The move will only halt India in its tracks. For an India seeking to regain its pre-Covid growth momentum, and emerge as an important player in the global supply chain, Haryana provides a terrible example.

Such nativist impulses will act as a dampener for the Atmanirbhar Bharat push. Shah’s ‘mini-India’ idea thus needs to be re-emphasised and reimagined for party apparatchiks and state governments across the country.

Haryana is not the only state taking a governance shortcut, at the cost of national commitments and obligations. States from Telangana to Jharkhand, Maharashtra to Karnataka, have been resorting to such populist measures, often losing sight of the national big picture.

Whether it’s Gurgaon in Haryana or Bengaluru in Karnataka, Hyderabad in Telangana or Chennai in Tamil Nadu, these centres have profiles and diversity that reflect the United Colours of India. Such centres will be New India’s engines of growth and urban renewal.

From Gurgaon to Bengaluru to Hyderabad to Chennai, the centres showcase the much-vaunted Indian IT prowess. If India is to emerge as a true knowledge economy and give birth to its own Silicon Valleys these centres, and their cosmopolitan human resources, will play a key role. Similar is the case with Chennai, Detroit of the East; financial capital of the country Mumbai; and Greater Noida, the country’s cellphone factory.

To push a nativist pill down the throats of these centres is to kill the Indian dream and strangulate Indian enterprise.

While in case of Haryana BJP’s Khattar can cite pressure from ally JJP and Dushyant Chautala, Bengaluru – and by extension – Karnataka, presents an interesting case study in how even our front-ranking states are sliding into the nativist abyss.

Bengaluru is the symbol of India’s global ambitions, a natural magnet for aspirational Indians. The city boasts of some of the finest institutions in India, both in the government and private sector. The city tops India’s list in ease of living. Some of India’s best-known personalities from fields as diverse as medicine, sciences, IT and social sciences are from Bengaluru. Such is the global profile and pull of the city that Tesla opts for Bengaluru as its entry point in India.

Yet, the state’s politics is not markedly different from what we have seen in Haryana. The nativist thrust of the BJP government in Karnataka, with debates on reserving entry-level jobs for locals to making Kannada tests compulsory for job-seekers, like many other state governments, can only impede the growth of industry and private enterprise, killing its innovation quotient in the process.

Now look at the irony. Karnataka has more than a fair share in the current central BJP, including two national general secretaries in the current team. Even after having such a significant say in national affairs, if the BJP-led Karnataka government roots for a politics that is inward looking, this militates against the idea of a united India. Going by recent examples, what’s true for Karnataka is true for many other states as well.

From the integration of the princely states to the post-Article 370 integration of the Indian Union, India’s journey has not been an easy one. Any attempts to create artificial barriers must therefore be nipped in the bud. Today, the idea of “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat” pervades the body politic. Whether it’s GST, or the idea of one common national market for farm produce, India’s journey has only been towards a greater integration.

For a party whose DNA is avowedly India-first, BJP must come down heavily on state units, state governments, leaders and CMs who promote such short-sighted politics, weakening India’s national integrity and resolve in the process. This tendency can only embolden those who would like to see India Balkanised.

A consensus on an issue of such national significance is important. BJP must take the lead here. Our urban centres must indeed be ‘mini-Indias’. They strengthen unity in diversity, and ensure diversity in unity. From Chennai to Srinagar, Hyderabad to Bengaluru to Mumbai, Ahmedabad to Guwahati, these ‘mini-Indias’ should be entities that every Indian is proud of.

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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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