South Indian representation in the cabinet takes a nose-dive
From 45% Representation in the Cabinet of Ministers in 2009, to 15% in 2019, South India faces a disproportionate lack of voices in the Modi 2.0 government.
Take a look at this list:
A. K. Antony, P. Chidambaram, Kavuru Samba Siva Rao, Veerappa Moily, Jairam Ramesh, Vayalar Ravi, Kishore Chandra Deo, Jaipal Reddy, Pallam Raju, Oscar Fernandes, Mallikarjun Kharge, G. K. Vasan, K. Rahman Khan.
Compare that to this list:
Nirmala Sitharaman, D. V. Sadananda Gowda, and S Jaishankar.
The first list is of South Indian Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in by Manmohan Singh in 2009.
The second is the list of South Indian Cabinet Ministers who were sworn in by Modi ten years later, in 2019.
In 2009, out of 29 Cabinet Ministers, 13 were from the South. In other words, North Indian representation in the Cabinet amounted to 55% in 2009.
In 2019, however, out of 24, just three are South Indian.
From 13 South Indian Cabinet Ministers to three, the drop in representation seems to be symptomatic of issues faced by the BJP in garnering votes in the southern states. While the Modi wave has ridden high throughout the majority of India, these southern states seem to be consistently resisting this saffron undertow - both in choosing their representation, and in being chosen to the highest offices at the Centre. In the entirety of PM Modi’s new ministry, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have been completely shunned. Telengana has one representative, Karnataka has four. Disproportionately, his ministry has nine representatives from Uttar Pradesh, eight from Maharashtra, and five each from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
This list of ministry appointments reflects a trend seen during polling in South India. Barring Karnataka, the BJP failed to raise its seat tally in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry. Although Telengana saw a rise in its seat tally, there was strong resistance to the saffron front. In analysing these numbers, one has to ask - what is the symptom, what is the disease? Is a lack of representation in the Central Government leading to a gap between the Centre and the States of the south? Or is the gap between the south and the centre the cause of this lapse in representation?
From the beef ban to the jallikattu protests, the BJP has tried and failed to grapple with intensely polarising issues in the South - rather than creating a greater divide between the right and the left, the issues raised by the BJP seemed to have helped create a united front the people could jointly reject. In addition to the geographical and cultural divides, the unifying language of the North - Hindi - has been perceived as an imperialistic imposition in many parts of South India, resulting in that being a rallying point for many BJP dissidents in the South. The so-called Hindi belt has delivered votes in the North, and that is reflected in this region having a heavily disproportionate number of appointments in the Cabinet.
At the end of the day, India is a federal polity. We must continue to operate through cooperation between the centre and the State. Ministers are that point of liaison between the two levels of government, and a loss of faith, or a loss of investment in the central government could lead to heavily weighted internal issues for India. Particularly considering the divisive nature of the new Minister of Home Affairs, Amit Shah, the central government is now entering a volatile time of imbalance - in support, in representation, and in trust.