A chink in the prime ministerial armour showed.
For the first time in recent years, perhaps, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was found wanting a strategy to address an issue that is beginning to resonate politically across the South: Delimitation.
He chose to walk away from it.
During his second consecutive public meeting in Telangana, this time in Nizamabad on Tuesday, 3 October, he waded into the delimitation issue.
He structured his thoughts on the topic: “At this time, there is a debate on delimitation. You know… after 25 years, how many seats in Parliament will be there… the judiciary takes this decision.”
Modi said that because of the exercise, states with less population will get fewer seats while those with higher population figures will get more seats.
At this point, the prime minister made a congratulatory statement that becomes important considering that all the states in the South are run by parties in Opposition — or neutral, as in the case of one — to the BJP.
“Now, all the states in South India have helped us a lot in controlling population,” he noted.
Mixing up issues
If that generated an expectation of a solution from the prime minister to the anomalous situation the South faces, it was doused quickly.
In newspapers in the North recently, reports have been appearing about unnamed government sources claiming to understand the concern (of the South) and that they are looking for a solution that will enable proportionate representation.
But the prime minister spoke no more of it. Instead, he changed tack. He referred to the slogan, ‘Jitni abadi utna haq’ (population-based rights), which Congress gave as its endorsement of the data of the Bihar caste survey. He used it in the context of delimitation.
Modi said: “…Congress slogan is…..’Jiski jitni abadi uska utna haq’….What does this mean? Now the Congress is trying to enact a drama that the number of MPs in South India will reduce.”
Will the South “agree to this” and “forgive Congress for this?” the prime minister asked.
The spin on delimitation complete, he shifted focus to the government control of temples and the lack of control over religious places of worship of the minorities.
The point is whether the prime minister inadvertently stamped delimitation as a cohesive electoral topic in the South by acknowledging it as a pan-South issue.