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Tharoor vs Kharge; South India wins

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By Malavika Jayadeep

In a divisive country that has since time immemorial prided itself on being a land that is rooted in multiplicity, there have been multiple attempts in recent times to assimilate all of India’s diversities into one largely governable identity that caters specifically to the upper caste Hindu Hindi speaking populace. In this idea of gradual assimilation and exclusion of any community that challenges this narrative, what does it mean to have a south Indian that defies this narrative as the head of the Indian National Congress?

In a country where south Indians comprise only around 19% of India’s population but play a crucial role in the overall ideation of India, it is important for there to be representation in major national parties in order to make inroads in the southern parts of India. Since the majority of south Indian parties are more region-specific and do not transcend beyond borders, it is of utmost importance for national parties to include representation from all sects in order to gain relevance in these states. Apart from Karnataka, national parties have not been able to make major inroads in the state due to the lack of personal connection with the people. 

Narasimha Rao, known for his economic reforms that greatly benefitted India, was a former prime minister from Andhra Pradesh who completed a full term. Even in his case, it can be argued that the real power still lay in the hands of the Nehru-Gandhi family, who tried to sideline Narasimha Rao and usurp his position for Rajiv gandhi. 

We can see in the case of Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda, that a south Indian gets the opportunity to become the head of the state only in the case of a coalition government where national parties are unable to reach the magic number of 272 seats. It can be argued that in the case of a coalition government, parties pick out southern candidates who are not as prominent and who will not disturb the power balances that remain in check in the northern blocs. When there are chances of a major disruption in the selection of a candidate, a non- threatening south Indian is often chosen to maintain the harmony of the political party. 

In the case of the congress presidential elections, it can be debated whether the power actually shifts from the Gandhi family or if these candidates will be instated as puppets. The fact of the matter is that both Shashi Tharoor, hailing from the state of Kerala and Mallikarjun Kharge, from Karnataka are representatives from South India. 

This representation is multifaceted since it goes in more ways than one; in getting a president from South India and facilitating representation for the people ‘down south’, it may not sit well with the rest as the key component of politics is the ability of being able to connect with people. With such a big language divide, how will the next president of the congress be able to connect with people throughout the length and breadth of India?

 Consolidating the entirety of India under one language is an impossible task, one that all political leaders of national parties have to take into account. One of the major reason behind a lot of national political leaders finding it difficult to make inroads in the South, has mainly been due to the language divide that makes it very hard, nay, impossible to carve a niche for themselves in that space.

In certain parts of South India, like Tamil Nadu there is a resentment or sometimes even hostility towards Hindi due to the anti-Hindi agitations and the Self- Respect Movement led by Periyar in which a lot of people lost their lives. This results in the inability to connect with a Hindi- speaking political leader. Now that there is South Indian representation, there may be higher chances of the congress being able to make better progress in the Southern states of India.

All said and done, representation is of utmost importance in the sphere of politics as people can only resonate with leaders who think like them, look like them or speak like them and a strong attempt must be made to include all Indians in all of its multiplicity into the manifold of national politics. 

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