The rise of nationalism & the Union of States (India)

The world is today witnessing less than expected prosperity coupled with unrest in the middle-east spilling over to Europe and a few other geographic areas. These circumstances have shifted people’s goal posts towards social identity and a sense of nationalism, vis-à-vis economic progress and globalization. Some also call this phenomenon as an era of “Post-Truth”. The right wing is gaining cyclical popularity in countries like India, USA, France etc.

India on the other hand is a Union of States unlike the United States of America, where the states at the very least do not share too many differences. The 60+ year old constitution of the Republic of India was vested with the duty to keep the present 29 starkly diverse Indian states together. When national parties have won a majority, the country witnesses some stability and on some accounts the Union Government slightly moves towards it’s other definition, Central Government.

However, this time around with the changing political landscape across oceans, India also is witnessing many factors converging at once. The Jallikattu movement, in support of an allegedly violent sport, saw rampant support across Tamil Nadu. This is one such example where people of all ages, educational backgrounds, rural population, urban population, political affiliations stood by the traditions of their state, resulting in an ordinance being passed to allow the sport. This exemplifies best what Identity can mean for India. States like Tamil Nadu, Orissa, West Bengal, Kerala, Jammu Kashmir and Assam are known for their stringent ideological beliefs.

More note worthy is the wave of identity politics sweeping other states. The crucial Bihar elections were fought under the “Bihari vs. Bahari” rhetoric, with the “Bihari” winning a massive mandate. The Punjab and UP elections, among others, are also being fought on the same theme of ‘Gharwale vs. Baharwale’.

The recent Cauvery water dispute involving Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, when both the states were facing a severe drought put the country’s technical experts, supreme court, state governments and union government to a litmus test. The faceoff happened between the state legislature and the highest level of Judiciary, to protect the interest of the states unlike ever before. It however did showcase a new level of citizens’ involvement in demanding accountability across all the three or rather four pillars of Indian democracy (including the very crucial media).

Thinkers, executives, government and judiciary would probably need to take into account the strong undercurrent. With the rise of new and social media and a proactive population which is energetic, the judiciary will need to evolve under in its own right to uphold its mark of respect, while the Union Government may have to step out of the “Central Government” tag for the well being of its own citizens and acknowledge the new normal.

These factors propel a new era of regional introverted-ness, while walking the tight rope of what the Idea of India has always stood for: “Unity in Diversity”; just with greatrigour and greater complexities.