Regional Prime Ministers!
Satish K Singh
Pause for a while… Think, who makes more ‘news’ today? Prime Minister visiting a state capital or Chief Ministers obliging ‘Delhi’ by their elusive and occasional touchdowns. Are the days of ‘Indira is India’ over for once and all but with a difference -- is the phenomena being etched and stretched all over in different state territories with the incarnations of regional ‘Indira’ – government schemes, personality centric parties, life size statues to win time and achieve immortality.
Let me bring before you 3 ‘M`s and 3 ‘P’s. Can’t we see it written all over the wall that three veterans or legends in making -- Maya, Mamata and Modi are going all out to concentrate & perpetuate the 3 ‘P’s – Party, Personality and Patriarchy in and around only themselves? Forgive me for the rhythmic misuse of the term ‘patriarchy’ – you can read matriarchy in case of Maya and Mamata. But, why are we forgetting other ‘federal’ or ‘regional’ heavyweights like the 2 ‘N’s – Nitish Kumar and Navin Patnaik and the one and only Jayalalitha - former Prime Minister Vajpayee may recall her better. And Devegowda and Gujaral must be having interesting memories of the ‘K’ clan. Now, can anybody deny the hard fact that regional Chatraps or State Chief(s) are defacto all in one – the party, the monarch, the rule, the law or in perverted sense – state in themselves (‘Rule of Law’ and an agency called CBI excluded).
But then…why? Why not? Simple, the days of Pan-India one- or two-party influence and appeal is over by atleast 31 years (delete ’84’ general elections) and it`s getting more ‘fractured’ ‘limited’ and ‘fluke’ like. Regional chieftains or warlords know it too well and so, more and more often they seek their price and booty, without foregoing an inch of their ‘payoffs’. Can ‘New Delhi’ get GST/DTC/FDI (multi-retail) going without the actual on-the-spot give and take with them? The answer is a big ‘NO’, even though the GOI decisions may be based on sound judgement and merit.
Doesn’t it lead one to assume that chronic symptoms are not only of administrative and Parliamentary paralysis but federal paralysis as well. Me, My Party and My State phenomena might be a good offspring to ‘67’ spring, but a big looming question comes to my mind - Are we going the ‘Con-federal’ way – beyond the ‘Union of States’ constitutional concept and practice? Do we need to frame and finalize new terms of engagement? No doubt that no government at the Centre can now ever dare to think of abusing Article 356 of the Indian Constitution in ‘coalition compulsion’ era and it looks more than certain that ‘pick–pack–dislodge` practice of mid 70s and 80s are no for never. Then, what is the legitimate way-out to fix the frame? To put it the other way, can’t our policy makers and think tanks take cue from the Unionist v/s federalist give and take from the United States of America. But, unlike us they do have two grand Pan America monoliths -- revolving door bi-party system and moreover they have President as head of both Government and the State.
Let me pick the 3Ls which in my view are more contextual and relevant to dwell on the dilemma, compulsions and jamming bottlenecks. Just a few days ago, we witnessed a big pro and anti gang up on the issues of Lokpal, Lokayuktas and Land acquisition, add FDI in multiband retail too. On Lokayukta and FDI, we saw not even a single opposition or even ally Chief Minister or party chief supporting the UPA govt and there are hardly any instances of complete ‘federal’ gang-up in quick succession in history – all in the name of rights and privilege of states and federal units. What does it say? Get your own numbers and if you need our doles and crutches, then it will not come without paying the timely price. What reflected politically interesting was the fact that on all the contentious issues, principal opposition or the entire opposition sounded and acted fortified. The strategy was quite apparent – woo the ‘Delhi’ makers, you might need them soon and only God knows – who will need whom, and who will go with whom – preconditions and contextual ‘flesh’ need no dilution.
Finally, the big question. Will ‘Delhi’ rule the states or vice versa? In an era completely dominated by marriage of conveniences followed by rapid divorces, doesn’t the system need at least institutionally, rewriting the script of Centre-States relationship? What could be better is that the State or their prince or princess compete and coexist to make federation stronger. But then, they have to shred their insatiable power appetite and practice the tenets of federalism within their states too. Unfortunately, the charismatic Kings or Queens (would be included), look like being ‘unitary’, ‘concentrated’ and ‘self obsessed’ and that is leading to bipolarity of ‘Parivar’, ‘Personality’ and ‘Patriarchy’ (again you read matriarchy) in states after states. One can’t fight for ‘federal’ right against ‘New Delhi’ and practice the opposite in your backyard.
A lesson for so called leftover All India Parties – either improve 182 or 206 or learn to live with 3 ‘M’s, 3 ’P’s and 3 ’L’s. Yeddys are in your ranks too, Mamatas and Mulayams are first and foremost Kings and Queens of their own kingdom.
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