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Two incidents in a week show how Modi govt is riding roughshod over states

Charu Kartikeya | Updated on: 26 December 2017, 21:12 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

In the middle of the 2014 General Elections, Narendra Modi -- then the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party -- had talked about federalism in a media interview: “I feel the federal structure should be implemented in letter and spirit with lubricating attitude,” he said, without elaborating whatever that “attitude” entails.

What he did elaborate was that “a chief minister and a prime minister should work in a team. State and centre are colleagues and not competitors. There should be cooperative politics and cooperative agenda”.

That interview has come back to haunt Modi as the Aam Aadmi Party has revived it on its social media platforms. In a video message tweeted by AAP's official Twitter handle, a clipping of that interview has been superimposed against media coverage of a recent surprising development that signaled a new low in the country's electoral politics.

The Modi government did the unthinkable on 25 December, ignoring the Delhi government at the inauguration of the latest track of the Delhi metro. Both governments are equal equity partners in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and that arrangement demands that both be adequately represented at formal functions.

However, the inauguration of a small stretch between Delhi and Noida on the Magenta line was attended by, apart from Modi, Delhi Metro Railway Chairman and Urban Development Secretary Durga Shankar Mishra, DMRC Managing Director Mangu Singh, Union Urban Development Minister Hardeep Puri, Union Culture Minister and Member of Parliament from Noida Mahesh Sharma, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik, UP Chief Minister Adityanath Yogi, UP Urban Development Minister Suresh Khanna, Noida's legislator Pankaj Singh and even UP BJP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey.

The Delhi government was, as they say, conspicuous in its absence.

As the elected head of 50% owner of the DMRC, either Delhi CM or the deputy CM should have been present. Given the privilege extended to BJP-governed UP, Okhla MLA, Delhi Urban Development minister and even Delhi AAP chief should have been present.

However, AAP leaders have claimed that they were not invited, alleging that Modi feared CM Arvind Kejriwal would have used the occasion to demand a roll-back of the recent hike in Metro's fares.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh flagged the absence of the invite a day ahead of the event, saying this had happened earlier too.

This has drawn much-deserved widespread criticism, with political leaders, journalists and political analysts calling it an assault on “ethics of politics”, a “petty act” and “crude, crass political behaviour”.

Another state, another assault

The incident came close on the heels of another incident that exposed the arrogance and mischief that the Union government harbours towards state governments run by Opposition parties.

Last week, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee announced that the Union government had cancelled West Bengal's tableau for the Republic Day parade.

Banerjee accused the Centre of “deliberately” cancelling the state's tableau “due to political reasons”. She elaborated that the tableau's theme was Harmony in Unity (Ekotai Sompriti) and the Centre cancelled it because it didn't go down well with the BJP's brand of politics.

The tableau reportedly depicted how people can stay together in spite of tension and how Bengal will demonstrate how to uphold unity against all odds.

“They (BJP) always try to create a division amongst people and so they did not select our tableau. We have received two awards from the Centre for displaying our tableau at previous Republic Day parades and we feel that the Centre is unnecessarily trying to discriminate against us as we have opposed many of the Centre’s policies,” Banerjee said.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that the Modi-government has cancelled West Bengal's submission for the Republic Day tableau. The incident had first happened in 2015 when the state's tableau depicting the state government's Kanyashree programme was cancelled.

That cancellation interrupted West Bengal's award-winning spree at the Republic Day parade. The state won the award for the best tableau at the parade in 2014 as well as in 2016.

The latest cancellation will once again deprive parade enthusiasts the opportunity to witness West Bengal's submission. However, more significant is the attitude that the Centre has displayed.

Both the Delhi Metro and the West Bengal tableau incidents show that even as the Modi-government's stated commitment is towards the ideal of “cooperative federalism”, what it is actually doing is riding roughshod over the rights of state governments.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 26 December 2017, 21:12 IST
Charu Kartikeya @CharuKeya

Assistant Editor at Catch, Charu enjoys covering politics and uncovering politicians. Of nine years in journalism, he spent six happily covering Parliament and parliamentarians at Lok Sabha TV and the other three as news anchor at Doordarshan News. A Royal Enfield enthusiast, he dreams of having enough time to roar away towards Ladakh, but for the moment the only miles he's covering are the 20-km stretch between home and work.