PM ‘violating’ Constitution, resorting to confrontational federalism: Cong

NEW DELHI, 31 Mar: As INDIA bloc leaders gathered for a show of unity at the Ramlila ground here, the Congress on Sunday accused the Modi government of violating the Constitution by resorting to “confrontational federalism.”

The Congress also accused the prime minister of resorting to fiscal centralisation, obstruction of state programmes, destabilising state governments, misusing governors, and subverting the rights of states.

In a statement, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that, as the INDIA bloc’s rally at the Ramlila ground gets underway, it is necessary to recall how the PM 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.”

He said that the prime minister 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 the PM has demonstrated a singular unwillingness and incapacity. In contrast, confrontational federalism is based on creating conflict and division, which is the PM’s core skill,” Ramesh charged in his statement.

The Congress leader said that there are five major patterns to the prime minister’s “concerted assault” on the Constitution’s federal structure – fiscal centralisation, obstruction of state programmes, destabilising state governments, misuse of governors, and subverting the rights of states.

Alleging fiscal centralisation, Ramesh said that every time states get their constitutional share of taxes, or their legitimate entitlement, the PM and the FM make it appear as though they are doing the states a big favour.

In reality, he said, there are multiple instances which show that the Centre is averse to sharing revenue with states.

He said that cess is a type of tax that is not shared with the states and since 2014, the share of tax revenue collected as ‘cess’ or ‘surcharge’ has

grown, from just around 10 percent to over 26 percent. In the last five years, the revenue collection from cessess has risen by over 133 percent, amounting to lakhs of crores withheld from the states, he said.

Alleging interference in the Finance Commission, he said, “In a blatantly illegal and unconstitutional move, the prime minister 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 percent to 33 percent.”

Ramesh also alleged withholding of funds, saying 223 out of 236 taluks of Karnataka are grappling with the effects of drought, with 123 experiencing severe drought conditions.

Noting that Karnataka needs Rs 17,900 crore as compensation, and farmers have lost crops worth Rs 35,000 crore, he said that not a single rupee has been released by the Centre to address this critical situation.

The Congress leader also accused the BJP of destabilising state governments and toppling several governments.

“Using its thousands of crores of ill-gotten electoral bond wealth and the intimidation of the ED/CBI/IT, the BJP has illegally attempted and/or successfully brought down many state governments since 2014 by breaking parties and buying MLAs. The list includes Maharashtra, Goa, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Puducherry, Uttarakhand, and Arunachal Pradesh,” Ramesh charged.

“The ED, IT, and CBI have been rendered the frontal organisations of the BJP, and have been used to intimidate senior leaders of the INDIA bloc in several states. At least two chief ministers, and 11 ministers across the country, have been arrested while in office.

“The Modi government has been continuously inventing new ways for remote-controlled governors to interfere in states functioning,” he alleged.

Ramesh said that governors have become the first line of offence for the BJP in their attempts to topple opposition governments.

“In states like Maharashtra, even the Supreme Court has censured that the Modi-appointed governors for their unconstitutional attempts to destabilise sitting state Governments.

“Modi-appointed governors are notorious for interfering in the governance of the state. This has included not giving assent to bills for months, or even years, after they are passed in the legislature, facilitating the BJP’s mergers and acquisitions department, hindering the appointment of vice-chancellors to universities, and refusing to allow the chief minister to decide his own cabinet,” the Congress leader alleged.

Alleging subverting the rights of states, he said that the cooperative sector is a state subject, and different states have had huge success managing their own cooperatives, such as dairy in Gujarat or sugar in Maharashtra.

“However, the Modi government has tried to seize control of this sector by making a new cooperatives ministry in the Centre,” he said.

Ramesh alleged that a stream of Modi-government interventions in education – whether NEP or NEET – takes away states’ power to run their own education systems, and strips them of any voice in education policy.

“The myopic centrally-imposed policies are making medical education inaccessible to state government school students by setting the syllabus in accordance with the central government curriculum. The linguistic diversity of India, from Marathi to Bengali, is not respected in these central systems,” he alleged. (PTI)