Saturday, April 13, 2024

Centre as ‘villain’


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Issues of Centre-State relations are again in sharp focus. Karnataka’s chief minister Siddaramaiah rallied forces in the national capital to taunt the Modi government, accusing it of indulgence in economic oppression of his state. The Centre is charged with discrimination in tax allocation to states, a view shared also by other non-BJP chief ministers. The Left too held a protest at Jantar Mantar, accusing the Centre of “diluting the principles of federalism.” Like Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu is also accusing the Centre of denying the states their due share of tax collections. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman claimed in a statement in parliament that the government has been strictly following the Fifteenth Finance Commission’s recommendations on tax sharing with states and has even extended more help to states. Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, as is his wont, presses his case by parading the entire state cabinet at Jantar Mantar, either in the hope of browbeating the Modi establishment or more likely to derive some publicity mileage in the national media.
It must be said to the credit of the Modi government in its two terms that there was less chatter about Centre-State relations or violations of rules and principles thereof by the Union Government. Modi as Prime Minister avoided confrontations with his political rivals. This was unlike Indira Gandhi, another strong-willed politician who had a special knack to keep her detractors on their toes. Modi as PM perhaps lacked her sense of confidence, or he was made wiser by his previous experience at the head of a state’s government and understood the intricacies and complexities involved in the Centre-State relations. Nirmala Sitharaman, on her part, is less of a politician and functions more on professional lines – a testament to the somewhat comfortable state of the national economy under her tutelage.
A tendency on the part of politicians is the more they get, the more they want, be it power or pelf. While the argument is that the present central government is not discriminating against non-BJP governments, this requires closer scrutiny. However, from whatever issues these state governments raised so far, they lacked a solid ground to put the Modi government on the dock. Notably, the Supreme Court too did not see merit in such a complaint advanced before it by the Kerala government. Notably, it is also unacceptable for states to grant more powers to the Centre under the federal system even when a situation – as in the case of terrorism or financial frauds – warranted so. Rather, states like West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh invoked constitutional provisions in the past to deny CBI an entry into their states to probe financial irregularities of the ruling cliques. The Centre, or Modi, simply recoiled.


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