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Not so "cooperative" federalism

 For Kumar, this was not a new experience as the CBI had earlier detained him on the same charges of corruption. The only evidence the investigators came up with were bottles of liquor found at Kumar’s residence. 

Clearly, so biased was the investigation that a special CBI court recommended contempt proceeding against the CBI officials in this case. CBI has alleged that Kumar is the kingpin of a Rs 50-crore computer purchase scam under the administration of Congress Chief Minister, Sheila Dixit. 

Given the trend that the CBI has been a weapon in the hands of the party that controls the Union government, it is effectively reduced to a tool for targeting political opponents. Suffice to say, this case of apprehending serving IAS officer Rajendra Kumar is being looked at with suspicion. 

In an analysis by news website Scroll.in, the allegations of political vindictiveness gain weight considering how the Modi government has been using its powers over the Delhi government personnel to push its political agenda. In 2013, the Supreme Court went on to call the CBI a “caged parrot”.

Apart from this incidence of Rajendra Kumar's arrest, there have been many other that reflect the dominance of the Centre over Delhi state administration. Several Delhi government officials have been transferred without consulting the state government. 

Many bills been passed by the Delhi Legislative Assembly have been rejected by the Union Home Ministry. When Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asks, “Is the Centre Delhi’s headmaster?”, it is justifiably a matter that demands timely attention and deliberation.

Using financial and legal power to overpower opponents in the states is no rarity in Indian politics. In fact, the Union government is known for deploying such tactics now and then.  The Congress has a long and proud tradition – starting from Jawaharlal Nehru himself – of blithely dismissing state governments who were political opponents of the Grand Old Party.

 In a deviation from this tradition, Narendra Modi promised a change.   Holding out the hope of “cooperative federalism”, as he called it, is a system whereby the Union government and states would work together. Clearly, this has not followed through.

 Although the Constitution of India has nowhere used the term “federal”, it has provided for a structure of governance which is essentially federal in nature. The Constitution provides for separate governments at the Union and the States with separate legislative, executive, and judicial wings of governance. 

Constitution also clearly demarcates the jurisdictions, powers, and functions of the Union and the State Governments. In addition to that, the Constitution has spelt out in detail the legislative, administrative and financial relations between the Union and the States. 

Within this basic framework of federalism, the Constitution gives overriding powers to the Central government. States must exercise their executive power in compliance with the laws made by the Central government and must not impede on the executive power of the Union within the States. Governors are appointed by the Central government to oversee the States. The Centre can even take over the executive functions of the States on issues of national security or breakdown of Constitutional machinery of the State. 

The federal model is to ensure that governance is distributed spatially and a strong Central government is supposed  to keep the federation together. But this theory is clearly far away from the practice that is rampant. The essence of cooperative federalism is that strength of the Centre must empower the states. But coordination and cooperation between the Centre and the States – particularly in the wake of cooperative federalism remains a challenge.
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