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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

PM Modi violating Article 1 of Constitution of India: Opposition decries 'assault on federalism'

This was a key sentiment at Sunday’s INDIA rally on the Ramlila grounds in Delhi, held under the shadow of the recent arrests of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and then Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 01.04.24, 06:06 AM
Sunita Kejriwal addresses the INDIA rally at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Sunday.

Sunita Kejriwal addresses the INDIA rally at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi on Sunday. PTI picture

The INDIA bloc has identified the Centre’s “antagonistic approach” towards Opposition-ruled states as a major electoral plank, seeking to “expose” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s lofty assertions on “cooperative federalism”.

This was a key sentiment at Sunday’s INDIA rally on the Ramlila grounds in Delhi, held under the shadow of the recent arrests of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and then Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren.

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An unprecedented level of animosity and distrust now defines the relations between Opposition chief ministers and the central government. The increasing “misuse” of central investigative agencies against Opposition politicians has been a powerful factor behind the pre-election unity forged by diverse political parties and their allegation of a grave threat to democracy.

At the rally, many Opposition leaders aired suspicion about the fairness of the electoral process, an apprehension not voiced even during the post-Emergency general election of 1977.

Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh issued a statement that accused Modi of undermining federalism.

“It is necessary to recall how the Prime Minister is violating, in letter and spirit, Article 1 of the Constitution of India that states ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States’,” the statement said.

“Modi started off his innings in May 2014 talking big about cooperative federalism. Instead, what he has delivered is confrontational federalism. Cooperative federalism is based on consensus, for which Modi has demonstrated a singular unwillingness and incapacity. In contrast, confrontational federalism is based on creating conflict and division, which is Modi’s core skill.”

At the rally, speakers accused the BJP of practising a politics of total domination and control under Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah.

While Uddhav said a democracy needed “a coalition of forces” and not one-man rule, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the real anti-national was one who wilfully violated the constitutional scheme.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said that regional parties were being pressured and blackmailed against joining the Opposition alliance. He said Soren was arrested because he refused to break ties with the Congress.

There is speculation about similar pressure on BSP chief Mayawati, who has stayed away from the Opposition alliance despite the possibility that fighting alone would destroy her party. Aam Aadmi Party leaders too have spoken about pressure to break the alliance with the Congress.

Added to this are the operations to pull down Opposition governments in the states, a trend Ramesh referred to in his statement.

“Using its thousands of crores of ill-gotten electoral bond wealth and the intimidation of the ED/ CBI/ IT (income-tax department), the BJP has illegally attempted and/ or successfully brought down many state governments since 2014 by breaking parties and buying MLAs,” he said.

“The list includes Maharashtra, Goa, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.”

Ramesh castigated “the Prime Minister’s concerted assault on the Constitution’s federal structure”.

“Fiscal centralisation is one issue. Every time states get their constitutional share of taxes, or their legitimate entitlement, the Prime Minister and the finance minister make it out as though they are doing the states a big favour,” the statement said.

“In reality, there are multiple instances which show that they are averse to sharing revenue with states.”

Giving examples, Ramesh said: “Cess is a type of tax that is not shared with the states. Since 2014, the share of tax revenue collected as ‘cess’ or ‘surcharge’ has grown, from just around 10 per cent to over 26 per cent. In the last five years, the revenue collections from cesses have risen by over 133 per cent, amounting to lakhs of crores withheld from states.

“In a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional move, Modi tried to directly interfere in the working of the 14th Finance Commission, pressuring the chairman to reduce the states’ share of central taxes from 42 per cent to 33 per cent.”

Ramesh referred to the withholding of funds, obstruction of state programmes, including welfare schemes, and accused Modi of subverting the rights of the states.

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