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Why Narendra Modi's faceoff with Congress chief ministers is bad news for India

Thursday, 21 August 2014 - 8:50pm IST | Agency: dna webdesk

The gloves are off. Even before the completion of 100 days of the Narendra Modi government, the chasm between the opposition-ruled states and Centre has increased alarmingly. So much so, that Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan decided to boycott the formal inauguration of the Nagpur Metro project on Thursday. Earlier this week, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda also pledged that he will not share stage with Modi again, after getting publicly booed in one of the programmes. 

If this trend continues, many believe that the Centre-state relationship can get affected drastically, which will ultimately become an impediment for smooth co-ordination in bringing about development. After becoming Prime Minister​, Narendra Modi said he would strike a conciliatory tone and that his government would try to help all the states, irrespective of the party in power. But his governement came down heavily on governors appointed by the previous government and also sacked 87-year-old former Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, who had been abruptly transferred to Mizoram. Modi's grandstanding in every government programme where he shares the dias with leaders of the opposition parties has only increased rancour. In Jharkhand on Thursday, Modi said that he hoped it would become like Gujarat soon, which came across as blatantly patronising. 

On Wednesday, the BJP asked Sonia Gandhi to reconcile with the fact that they had lost the elections. While the Congress needs to get away from the denial syndrome, it is equally important for Narendra Modi and the BJP to also come out of the election mode. A little bit of grace will go a long distance in soothing frayed nerves and actually kickstarting the development cycle, Modi envisions. Even before Modi became Prime Minister, as Gujarat chief minister he was often accused of using government programmes for political canvassing. While sharing stage with the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in October last year, Modi had invoked Sardar Patel's legacy and said that the destiny of the country would have been different had Patel become the first Prime Minister. He added that this was a regret of every Indian, which evoked a sharp reaction from Manmohan Singh. Modi seems to be continuing in the same vein even after becoming Prime Minister. 

The wise men who wrote our constitution designed it in such a way that the state and Centre have to be on the same page, especially over matters which come under the Concurrent List. It is a federal structure, and nobody can get around it. Thus, showing disrespect to democratically elected people can't be a way out. On the other hand, Congress chief ministers also need to get a hang of the ground reality. The party has just been handed its worst drubbing in the polls. Thus it is most likely that all the poll-bound Congress chief ministers are highly unpopular. Hence, the booing by the audience could well be a spontaneous reaction and not evil design orchestrated by the BJP. Treating Modi as a political untouchable and boycotting his programmes will not give any positive message to the electorate. 

With Modi's decision to abolish the Planning Commission, it is still unclear how the allocation of funds for states will be done. The strife between the state and Centre could soon snowball into a major deadlock when it comes to monetary allocation. Hence all sides should ideally tone down their rhetoric and give mutual respect to each other. State elections will continue to happen throughout the year, but the Prime Minister has a solid mandate to rule for five years. All sides need to remember this. 

In the matter of respecting constitutional authorities and promoting a bipartisan relationship, Narendra Modi may remember the example created by his political guru Lal Krishna Advani. On 2012, while addressing a session in the United Nation General Assembly, LK Advani lavishly praised UPA's MGNREGA programme even though the BJP was opposing it domestically. Signs of true statesmanship!! 

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