Kerala sounds bugle

CAA Dissent Note

By Insaf

Kerala sounding the bugle has sharpened notes of Centre-State relations on the brink yet again. While the Citizenship Amendment Act has already undermined BJP’s promised goal of ‘cooperative federalism’, the challenge from Pinarayi Vijayan government could snowball with other anti-CAA States following suit. On Tuesday last, Kerala became the first State to pass a resolution demanding that the Act be scrapped and justifying its action saying “it has been violating the fundamental principles of the Constitution.” This prompted a response from Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who asked Vijayan to “better legal advice”, as it is only “Parliament which has got the powers to pass any law with regard to citizenship; not any Assembly, including the Kerala Assembly”. But the State sticks to its guns and has countered saying “State Assemblies have their own privileges.” Obviously Vijayan is courting a major controversy and in fact much more.
He may also have to deal with breach of parliamentary privileges and contempt proceedings, if Rajya Sabha Chairman accepts a request from a BJP MP to initiate action against the Chief Minister over the resolution. Such actions, said Vijayan are ‘unheard of anywhere,’ but nothing can be ruled out under the new dispensation! Be that as it may, the State is also set to witness another bout between the Chief Minister and Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, after the latter declared the resolution has “no constitutional or legal validity”. Khan adds fuel to fire saying “Why do these people engage in such matters that are not an issue in Kerala, which has not been affected by Partition…” prompting charges of him ‘working as a BJP agent” from the ruling alliance. While such banter is run of the mill by now, the critical question is whether the States have any powers under the Constitution to stop implementation of laws and rules made by Parliament? And, if States refuse can the Centre take action? It goes without saying all eyes would now be what follows and what crisis it eventually lead to? Who will knock on the court’s door first?

Rajasthan Tragedy
Politics over tragedy is now being played out in Rajasthan. Both the ruling Congress and opposition BJP should hang their head in shame in the midst of 104 infant deaths in JK Lon Hospital, Kota district. Both have been indulging in a blame game and protesting to score brownie points, without paying any heed to the anguish of hundreds of parents. Worse, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot claims he is doing everything to prevent the deaths and that infant mortality is decreasing but adds “that in five-six years, the lowest figures are coming now, that is how wonderful the arrangements have been.” The fact is that arrangements are pathetic to say the least, as the deaths of the infants are reportedly due to “unhygienic conditions!” But who cares? BSP chief Mayawati too uses the tragedy to hit back at the Congress as it got six of her MLAs to join its fold. And while she is right that Gehlot government’s attitude is “condemnable as it has mismanaged and still remains irresponsible and unsympathetic to the situation,” is the political leadership across the board really concerned? The answer without a doubt is a big no, as infant deaths do hit headlines. Remember, Gorakhpur in UP and Muzzafarpur in Bihar, to name a few?

Maharashtra Bickering
The New Year ushers bickering in the ruling alliance in Maharashtra. The predictable kissa kursi ka is already in play. The Shiv Sena on Thursday last, was candid to admit there was a tussle among ‘senior leaders’ of the three parties for key Cabinet berths. However, it put up its hands saying some MLAs couldn’t be inducted as the list of “probables” was huge, after accommodating 36 new ministers. In its editorial in ‘Saamana’, the Sena also took a dig at partner Congress saying the latter used to term its protests as hooliganism, but was indulging in the same. This after some people vandalised Congress office in Pune against non-inclusion of its party MLA. It is confident that a ‘strong and experienced Cabinet is in power’ and says it should be allowed to function. Fingers have been crossed and on Friday last, with a minor reshuffle, the Sena is confident that all should be well. But it is too early to be at ease, as MLAs from all sides are waiting in the wings. Wonder whether Sena discounting former partner BJP’s glee with the brewing discontent saying it was no different during their courtship, will hold. Time, no months ahead will tell.

TN Ally Anti-NRC
The number of BJP allies saying “No to NRC’ is growing, with the latest being the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), in Tamil Nadu. While it does support CAA, it adopted a resolution saying there is “no need for implementing the NRC in the State, which does not share any land borders with any country”. And data is already available about Sri Lankan refugees in the country and any exercise will only create unnecessary apprehension among the people. Besides, it asked Centre to clear misgivings over there being no link between NRC and National Population Register, as the latter, it opined, was a precursor to NRC. Remember, two other BJP allies, the JD(U) in Bihar and Akali Dal in Punjab have opposed NRC. Now with PMK making its position clear, the Centre has reason to worry as it could bring the ruling AIADMK, under pressure. As it is, some of its prominent minority members are nudging the leadership “to take an unambiguous stand” against the NRC and allay apprehensions among minorities. Undoubtedly, New Delhi will need to double up its damage control exercise.

WB Tableau Rejected
West Bengal is smarting under the rejection of its tableau this Republic Day. With it, yet another bout of TMC-BJP tu tu mein mein begins. The ruling TMC says its vendetta and its people have been ‘insulted’ for protesting against the Citizenship Amendment Act. And so do Maharashtra and Kerala cry foul as they didn’t make it. However, BJP counters saying TMC should stop doing politics on every issue and it failed as it didn’t follow rules and procedure properly in submitting its proposal! Other States, which did, have their tableau listed. A Defence Ministry spokesperson too clarified “West Bengal’s tableau proposal was examined by the expert committee in two rounds, but didn’t make the cut” on the basis of theme, design, concept and its visual impact. Plus, there was time constraint. Apparently, 56 tableaux proposals (32 from States/UTs and 24 from ministries/departments) were received for the 2020 parade. Of these, a total of 22 proposals were shortlisted after five meetings and finally proposals of 16 States/UTs and six ministries/departments got the green signal. Which interpretation to believe? Will it tally with other left out States? —INFA