Since coming to power, the key interlocutors of this government have been intimating a quest to ‘amend’ the 13th Amendment to the constitution. Such pronouncements are not just political theatre. They betray a real conviction born out from the nationalist ideological orientation and a belief that this is the opportune local and global moment to strike. They confide that India, the underwriter of the 13th amendment is no longer ‘really’ interested in it. They contend that Narendra Modi who has unilaterally abolished the special status and split into two, the Muslim Majority Jammu and Kashmir State would not be swayed by Tamil Nadu politics. Modi, a Hindu nationalist would easily relate to the sensitivities of the Sinhala nationalists, they flutter. After all, why would Modi care to perpetuate the legacy of the Congress Party and its late Premier Rajiv Gandhi, they challenge you to the debate.
A commonsense advice to the government would be not to touch the 13th Amendment. Leave it where it is. True that it has created a white elephant, but it is a useful political instrument that had partially dampened the Tamil’s popular mobilisation for a separate state and addressed part of Tamil political aspirations. It has done so without negating the primacy of the Centre over the periphery. The opponents of the 13th Amendment overstate the extent of devolution under the 13th Amendment. In practical terms, it operates within a structural framework that is firmly subordinate to the supremacy of the institutions of the central government. On the other hand, Tamil nationalists understate the property of devolution through the 13th Amendment. But they are asking power for sake of power, and have failed to make use of even already available provisions.
As much as it is harmless as it exists now, the full implementation of the 13th Amendment is not feasible without opening the Pandora box and feeding into an insatiable appetite of Dravidian nationalism. Leave it where it is and the government keep itself from harm’s way. Tinker with devolution, it would be a recipe for troubles.