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BRP Bhaskar: Challenges to federalism
June 16, 2015
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

The feud between the Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the Central government, and the Aam Admi (Common Man) Party, which runs the Delhi state government, and the skirmishes between the Telugu Desam Party, which rules Andhra Pradesh state, and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which is in power in the recently created Telangana state, are sure signs of deterioration in India’s political climate.

The conduct of the constitutional authorities involved in the fracas poses threats to the future of democracy as well as the federal polity.

The trouble in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, which is not a full-fledged state, began as an ego clash between Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, both former bureaucrats.

Kejriwal had led the AAP to a massive victory in the Assembly elections last February, foiling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid to bring Delhi state also under BJP rule. He believes the BJP is now seeking to rule the state using Najeeb Jung as proxy.

Relations between Jung and Kejriwal soured when the former appointed an officer of his own choice as the acting Chief Secretary, ignoring the Chief Minister’s wishes. Kejriwal retaliated by removing the officer who had issued the appointment order at Jung’s behest. Jung asserted that he alone was competent to appoint and transfer officers.

Throwing democratic niceties to the winds, the Centre endorsed Jung’s stand that he could act without consulting the elected government. The issue is now before the court.

Last week the Delhi police, which is under the control of the Lieutenant Governor, arrested State Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar on a charge of using forged university degrees. If the arrest had not come in the wake of the battle between the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor, it could have been viewed as an act in keeping with the principle that no one, howsoever high, is above the law.

Until recently the BJP was an ardent advocate of full statehood for Delhi. Its present stance shows that it is unwilling to forgive the AAP and the capital’s voters for dashing its hopes in Delhi and bringing the Modi juggernaut to a halt.

The trouble in the South is a fall-out of the division of Andhra Pradesh state, which had come into being in 1956 as the common home of the Telugu-speaking people who lay scattered in British Indian provinces and princely states during the colonial period. The Telangana state was carved out a year ago following prolonged agitation by people of the region, which was formerly part of the princely state of Hyderabad, alleging neglect by successive Andhra Pradesh governments.

Under the law enacted for the bifurcation, Hyderabad will serve as the capital of both Telangana and the residuary Andhra Pradesh state for 10 years. This arrangement was made to give AP time to build a new capital since Hyderabad is now part of Telangana. The two states also have a common Governor, who is in charge of law and order in the joint capital during the interim period.

A piquant situation arose when Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested A Revanth Reddy, a Telugu Desam Party MLA, on a charge of bribing a nominated member of the Assembly to vote for a TDP candidate in the Legislative Council elections. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao later released the tape of an alleged conversation between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and the nominated member to show that he (Naidu) was aware of the bribery.

Naidu said the tape was a fabricated one. He accused Chandrasekhar Rao’s party of encouraging defections from the state unit of TDP. Workers of the TDP filed complaints at several places in Andhra Pradesh against Chandrasekhar Rao and the Telangana Home Minister on charges of tapping Naidu’s phone.

Any step taken by any government against corruption deserves to be welcomed. But the developments in Hyderabad have to be viewed in the broad context of attempts by the two regional parties which hold power in the neighbouring states to settle political scores. An ugly situation involving a serious challenge to the federal structure can develop if the two Chief Ministers persist in the present course.

The Constitution is resilient enough to deal with tricky situations. But it can work smoothly only if constitutional authorities rise above petty politics and display statesmanship when the occasion demands it.

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 The author is a political analyst of reckoning
 

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