The NDA government has chosen an ironic moment to convene a meeting of the Inter-State Council, a body assigned the task of settling disputes between various states and between states and the centre. The meeting is taking place on the same day as a floor test in the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly, necessitated by a Supreme Court verdict that reversed an unfortunate series of events in the state; events that were a direct result of the BJP-led union government's machinations that led to the fall of the elected government in the state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the meet in New Delhi, once again trying to create an impression that his avowed mantra of cooperative federalism is not an empty slogan.
Cooperative federalism is an article of faith for our Govt. Inter-State Council gives a good opportunity to discuss wide range of subjects.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 16, 2016
He met all chief ministers at the summit and the visuals of the handshakes at those meetings seem to be conveying an atmosphere of camaraderie.
WATCH: Inter State Council meeting took place today in Delhi, PM Narendra Modi met Chief Ministers of states.https://t.co/P8zZzFIhuA— ANI (@ANI_news) July 16, 2016
However, what is actually happening on the ground is diametrically opposed to how one would imagine cooperative federalism to work.
The SC order in Arunachal Pradesh's case was unequivocal in slamming the Governor for "humiliating the elected government of the day" last December. Governor JP Rajkhowa had taken a series of arbitrary actions that eventually culminated in the imposition of President's Rule in the state. Governors of states are agents of the Centre and so, it will be disingenuous to say that Rajkhowa acted of his own volition. Thanks to his actions, the state will not be represented at the Inter-State Council meeting at the level of the CM, simply because the state assembly was to witness a floor-test today.
Arunachal Pradesh is not isolated. Had the Supreme Court not intervened in Uttarakhand too, ordering lifting of the unceremoniously-imposed President's Rule there, the elected government would not have been revived. Earlier this year, similar attempts were being made in Manipur and Meghalaya as well. The BJP's fervent chase of its goal of Congress-mukt Bharat has made it resort to unconstitutional means to topple Congress-led governments in states, instead of coming to power through the ballot.
Then, there is Delhi, where the state and central governments are publicly locked in nasty confrontations on multiple fronts. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal attended the meeting, but on the same day his government issued advertisements in leading national dailies, lamenting lack of cooperation from the centre.
These are not isolated cases but outcomes of the multiple strategies being used by the BJP to expand its footprints throughout the country. It is one thing to expand by winning elections and quite another by toppling governments. This was a chronic malaise long associated with the Congress party when it was strong at the centre, but now the BJP is catching up fast.
The Inter-State Council is a body mandated by the Constitution of India under Article 263. It is the only article in the chapter that deals with "relations between the Union and the States". The Union, under Modi, must be congratulated for reviving the Council that had not met in last 10 years. However, the relationship that this article of the Constitution talks about stands massively ruptured under Modi and unless he stops the BJP's toppling campaign, the council will hardly serve any purpose.