The increasing legislative overreach of the Union government in the past four years has raised serious questions over the state’s autonomy. The state governments that have ruling parties other than BJP have been accusing centre of undermining the federal structure. The efforts to conduct simultaneous elections, centralisation of economic power, and not seeking state’s consultations in crucial decisions like the appointment of the governor are seen as a threat to the state’s autonomy.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, along with other eminent political leaders: Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Kunal Sarangi, INC spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi and RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary- discussed Centre’s overreach during the Youth Ki Awaaz Summit on September 2 at Dr BR Ambedkar International Center, in New Delhi.
Shashi Tharoor, a Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, opened the debate raising a question that whether or not Centre should loosen its hold over the states. The Panel was of the opinion that the power should be decentralised and the indigenous concerns of the states should find a place in the national level policymaking.
Centre’s Interference In The Functioning Of States
The policymakers expressed their concerns over increasing centralisation of economic and decision-making power and the Union government’s efforts to sideline regional governments in state-specific affairs. They unanimously stressed upon the importance of the federal structure of the country.
Vice president of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) Jayant Chaudhary: “We are a part of nation, but every state and region has its uniqueness and concerns. The rule of the majority doesn’t mean that you discard dissent. The decision taken by a strong leader of a strong party are being thrust upon without any consultation with the state functionaries. This undermines fundamentals of our constitution.”
A technocrat-turned politician from Jharkhand Kunal Sarangi, noted “For Jharkhand, the way Centre is interfering with everything that ideally the state should deal with, is becoming a concern. For two years the state assembly hasn’t been functional, and major decisions are bulldozed only because they have the majority. The amendment to Chhotangapur Tenancy (CNT) Act and Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act was widely opposed, but the way the ruling party dealt with the opposition was disturbing. People have given you a mandate, but that doesn’t mean you’ll weaken the institutions and constitutional provisions of decision-making.”
Speaking on the Centre’s interference in the state’s affairs, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said, “Entire system is centrally dominated and autonomy of states are being undermined. The idea of India that brought all the states together because they were promised they could continue to function while being part of the country is being challenged. Such instances of legislative and administrative overreach by the Centre happen on a daily basis. We have seen that during Karnataka elections. Similar observations were made in Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya, and many other states. Right now it’s not about asking more autonomy but to get what was envisioned in the constitution.”
Region Divides And Distribution Of Resources
Priyanka Chaturvedi: “We never saw such heated debates on the north and south divide earlier. Such polarisation is happening only now. Maybe we need inter-state councils which have been dysfunctional under this government. Deliberations would result in coming up with proper policies. North and South should engage and collaborate. But Centre is playing big brother in deciding who gets what and how much.”
Jayant Chaudhary: “Politics is all about identity. Assam is having NRC exercise, and other states are demanding that too. States often fight for identities, but the point is not to undermine constitutional provisions.”
Kunal Sarangi: “Identity should not become the main focus of your strategies. You cannot be spending 50 lakhs on the statue of Shivaji. You give Rs 500 crore to Kerala flood relief but spend around Rs 4000 crore on statues. Also, resource allocation should be based on the indigenous demands of the community not just a general perspective of development.”
The Road To 2019
Talking about the concrete ideas that the opposition will be using to single themselves out from the functioning of the ruling government, the panellist stressed upon the need for state’s autonomy, expanding the scope of MPs in the party, and transparency in the functioning.
Priyanka Chaturvedi: “Niti Aayog which is now PMO aligned has to be reworked and inter-state councils have to be strengthened. The legislative assemblies and scope of MLAs would be expanded, and it won’t be a one person show.”
Shashi Tharoor: “In four years we have seen that there are limitations of the branding and marketing. We’ve had worst of both worlds- a parliamentary form of government and presidential government. People should vote for individual MPs who would represent their indigenous concerns. Also, the scope and independence of MPs have to be expanded. No government should have the entitlement to the power. If they fail to serve, voters throw them out and give some other party a chance. And it applies to every party.”