Dr Suresh Mathew
“A vast and diverse country such as ours cannot survive without a vibrant and functional federal structure… It is, however, a matter of great concern that the federal structure of our Republic has come under increasing strain, contrary to the spirit of our Constitution, merely to suit the whims and fancies of the rulers in Delhi.” These are the words of none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But he said so when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, two years before he came to occupy the throne in Delhi. His words epitomise the feelings and sentiments of States which are ruled by parties other than the one holding the reins at the Centre. His words point to the Central Government’s wanton misuse of power to unseat democratically elected governments in States and enthrone puppet governments of its choice.
Ironically, as Prime Minister, Mr Modi has not given a hoot to the very principle he wanted the Centre to uphold – respect for States ruled by Opposition parties. The developments in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand are yet another nail in the coffin of cooperative federalism, of which Mr Modi was an ardent supporter. In the border State of Arunachal, the Congress government was dismissed and the State was brought under Central rule, only to install a government formed by rebels with the support of the BJP. In Uttarakhand too, the same method was sought to be applied to dislodge the Congress government. But the court verdict has come as a spoke in the wheel. There were rumours of a repeat in Manipur, but it has not been succeeded.
There seems to be a method in the madness of the ruling party at the Centre. This becomes clear if one recalls what Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said a few months back. He claimed that the party would have its Chief Ministers in at least 20 States before the 2019 general elections. What he did not reveal is the method to be used to achieve this impossible task. With the recent ‘destabilisation’ of State governments, it has become clear that the party is planning to achieve the unattainable target through back door. The Bihar result was an eye-opener for the BJP as it realised that the Modi magic was on the wane and the saffron party may not be able to win States through the battle of ballot.
The BJP now practices what it opposed tooth and nail while in Opposition. It was a strong critic of use of Article 356; it had read riot act against misuse of Governor’s post; it had endorsed the Bommai judgment which prescribed floor test to decide the majority of a government; it was a votary of strong federal structure. Now the party has taken a U-turn on these issues after assuming power at the Centre. Even its allies are not amused at the turn of events. The party will do good to take note of at least its ally Shiv Sena’s warning: “There are murmurs that democracy is being strangled….one-party rule is worse than emergency or dictatorship.”