Patna: The Congress Party has historically been intolerant of non-Congress parties and repeatedly dismissed and otherwise harassed popularly elected non-Congress Governments in the States, starting with Kerala way back in 1959. Later it indulged in wanton and wholesale destabilization of non-Congress (SVD) coalitions after 1967 and repeated this in 1980. The Congress Party, especially the dynasty that has controlled it almost throughout since Independence, cannot stomach the idea that India is a multi-party, pluralist democracy. While paying lip service to democracy, federalism and Republican institutions, it privately desires that every Indian man, woman and child should behave like subjects under a monarchy.
Now that an informed citizenry, conscious of democratic rights and norms of federalism, has compelled the Congress to desist from dismissing elected State Governments at whim, the ruling party has resorted to various underhand methods to torment non-Congress regimes. Using financial and investigative powers vested with the Union Government, the Congress has been conducting systematic manoeuvres to destabilize and derail non-Congress (or non-UPA) State Governments especially targeting popular BJP Chief Ministers. Unnerved by the success of BJP/NDA Governments in implementing pro-poor economic programmes, their proven ability to set new benchmarks in inclusive development and establish transparent systems of governance, the Central Government has launched a vicious and vindictive campaign against our State Governments.
Steps initiated by the UPA1 and UPA2 Governments at the Centre are aimed at surreptitiously seizing powers vested with the States and concentrating them in the hands of the Government in Delhi. For example, the Central Government has recently circulated a draft proposing amendments to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995. The new draft includes a provision whereby District Magistrates will be required to report any breach of the Rules directly to the Centre. This is a clear instance of trespassing on the State’s jurisdiction.
Further, the Centre has recently circulated the draft of a Bill “The Public Services (Protection and Regulation) Bill 2010”. According to this the Central Government wants to specify and regulate public services such as education, health, water supply, sanitation, housing, public transport, housing and electricity. If this Bill becomes law it would be an outright infringement on the States’ legislative powers and an elected State Government’s accountability to its electors with regard to the provision of public services.
The Centre’s recent moves fly in the face of the Sarkaria Commission’s recommendations for the devolution of greater financial and administrative powers to the States. The Commission had also made some specific recommendations about the role of Governors and also proposed that active politicians should not be appointed to that post. However, Governors in several States are flouting these norms, obviously at the Centre’s instigation. In many cases, instead of seeking opinion of the State’s Advocate-General about legislation or legal issues concerning the State, Governors have been communicating directly with the Attorney-General of the Central Government. On the appointment of Chief Justices of High Courts, the Central Government nowadays thinks it unnecessary to consult Chief Ministers.
The Centre is also misusing its captive agencies to mount political offensives against democratically elected non-Congress State Governments. On the eve of the Swarnim Gujarat celebrations to mark 50 glorious years of the State’s formation, the Central Government unleashed the CBI to defame and demonise its popular Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Working hand-in-hand with subversive elements masquerading as civil society activists, the Centre’s investigative agencies sought to rake up the issue of encounters against dreaded anti-national terrorists. The timing of the reopening of these issues gave away the Centre’s political motives.
The Gujarat Government led by Shri Modi has been constantly targeted by the Congress, which has been conspiring to frame the Chief Minister for eight long years although without any success. Unsubstantiated and patently false charges continue to be bandied about against the Chief Minister and other BJP leaders. Meanwhile, the Union Government has repeatedly refused permission to enact GUJCOC, a tough anti-terror law that has been twice passed by the State Assembly. It is common knowledge that GUJCOC contains provisions similar to laws like MCOCA in UPA-ruled Maharashtra and this law is applicable in many other UPA-ruled States. But the Centre has singled out Gujarat and is determined not to allow the President of India to give assent for its enactment.
Gujarat is not the only State that has come for such politically motivated actions that violate the Constitution federal framework. Each and every NDA-ruled State has suffered grievously at the Centre’s hands. In Madhya Pradesh, a Union Minister arbitrarily ordered suspension of work on the Maheshwar power project, vital for the State’s economic sustenance. This authoritarian order was issued on spurious grounds because the State had already complied with all necessary conditionalities. The idea, clearly, was to prevent Madhya Pradesh from generating more electricity to bring prosperity to its farmers and industrial workers. While Congress Ministers keep parroting the target of 10 percent annual growth, they seem determined to keep non-Congress States in the bondage of poverty and underdevelopment.
Chhattisgarh became a role model for the country by introducing a scheme to provide subsidized rice and wheat to BPL families in the State. The Rs 2 a kg rice and Re 1 a kg salt scheme has been a runaway success and the State’s large tribal population is its main beneficiary. Piqued by the BJP Government’s popularity, the Centre has been periodically reducing foodgrain allocation to Chhattisgarh from the Central PDS pool. This has forced the State Government to procure foodgrain from the open market to ensure the State’s poor do not go hungry. But it has placed an increasingly heavy burden on the State’s resources.
All other BJP-ruled States have faced brazen discrimination by the Centre on one issue or the other. In the case of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Industrial Promotion Package for backward Hill States, which lapsed on March 31, 2010, was not renewed. But for Jammu and Kashmir it was extended till 2012 and for North-Eastern States till 2017. Uttarakhand Chief Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal pleaded for extension of this facility at least till 2013 since it is a newly created State. But he was rebuffed. Similarly, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s request that plan allocation for his State should be increased at par with other Hill States was turned down. The rise in Himachal Pradesh’s allocation is the lowest among Special Category States.
One statistic alone is telling. Following its abject failure to control price rise and disturbed by the BJP’s success in putting the Government on the dock on this issue, the Centre tried to shift the blame on hoarders. Accordingly, its agencies launched raids across States to uncover stored foodgrain. Of these raids 83 percent happened in non-UPA ruled States and just 17 percent in UPA-ruled States!
In the matter of providing relief to States affected by natural calamities, the Centre’s heart seems to bleed only for Congress-ruled States. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has repeatedly complained that Central relief for Kosi flood victims was not only paltry but also delayed. Clearly, this was an attempt to show the NDA Government down in people’s eyes, possibly at the instigation of a past and potential future ally of the Congress in Bihar. In previous years too the Centre grandly announced relief for flood victims in the State and then quietly refused to disburse funds for house reconstruction later, leaving the State Government stranded.
Karnataka too has been at the receiving end of the Centre’s discriminatory policies. There is a huge gap between the funds allocated for security upgradation in UPA-ruled State Capitals, Hyderabad and Chennai, compared to Bangalore, which is India’s IT hub and highly vulnerable to terror attacks. The issue of mining royalties to mineral rich States is also hanging fire. Karnataka has protested against the Centre’s appropriation of royalties Recently non-UPA ruled Odisha has joined Karnataka in voicing the same complaint.
All of a sudden and without proper consultation with non-UPA Chief Ministers, the Centre has announced implementation of the Right to Education Act. While the BJP endorses this legislation in principle for it is an extension of the NDA Government’s highly commended Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the Centre wants the States to cough up a huge share of the funds needed for RTE. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan estimates this will cost a staggering Rs 13,000 crore for his State alone. In fact, the Centre is planning to abolish all State Secondary Boards and replace them with a Central Board and forcibly introduce a common syllabus. This is yet another assault on our federal structure as it does not take into account the enormous diversities of culture, language and educational standards in this vast country.
UPA 1 had already burdened the States with the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations on the eve of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in a clever ploy to garner electoral advantage. And now it wants States to pay out huge amounts for RTE. This is a clear attempt to pauperise BJP State Governments so that they are forced to cut back on popular welfare schemes.
The systematic harassment of non-Congress State Governments reflects the Congress Party’s anti-federal mindset. The Manmohan Singh Government has created two categories of States: The privileged, consisting of those ruled by the Congress and its allies and the underprivileged comprising those ruled by BJP and its allies. This is not only a violation of the Constitution but also a form of political apartheid. Drunk with power, the UPA Government has launched an all-out financial and legal war against BJP regimes in the States. In the process institutions like the CBI and Planning Commission have been reduced to extension counters of the PMO and 10 Janpath.
The makers of our Constitution envisaged a federal structure, which is why our country is designated The Union of India. But the Congress is hell-bent on subverting the Constitution and making India a unitary State in which the will of the people becomes subservient to one political party’s megalomania.
The Bharatiya Janata Party warns the UPA Government to desist from these subversive and underhand activities against elected non-Congress Governments in the States. BJP reiterates its deep commitment to federalism, as evident from the way the NDA Government of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee conducted itself. The BJP will not take the UPA’s unconstitutional assaults lying down. Public opinion will be mobilized against these illegal actions and our party will compel the UPA Government to abandon this dangerous game.