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Testing grounds of federalism

The recent upheaval in the State of Bihar has uncovered critical insight into the uses and abuses of a federal structure.

Testing grounds of federalism
The Bihar state of the Indian Union has just witnessed the most serious post-election reversal of its people's electoral will. In its last assembly elections, the citizens of Bihar had delivered a direct reversal of the electoral mandate of Lok Sabha 2014 that had enabled the BJP to perform a near sweep of Bihar's Lok Sabha seats. It is quite likely that this was no reversal at all. It meant that the 2014 Lok Sabha results were a fluke in their own way, the results of a forward caste centric formation winning when the backward groups stood greatly divided. In fact, in 2014, the RJD and JD(U) fighting separately, won many more votes than the BJP even at the height of the "Modi wave"; only if the RJD and JD(U) votes were tallied together.

This assembly was elected through a direct fight between the lower caste centric anti-communal forces of the RJD-JD(U) led combine versus the upper-caste centric communally fuming forces led by the BJP. The shameful somersault by Nitish Kumar of JD(U) and the speed with which the BJP extended its support to Nitish Kumar after his resignation drama displays the meticulous planning of this entire charade. That this is some kind of posturing against "corruption" is almost laughable. Most ministers of the JD(U)-BJP government that Nitish Kumar has been able to cobble together have pending cases against them. There will be no "inner voice" now. That the BJP engineered a reversal of such a massive mandate against them should send alarm bells throughout the system and to other nations who may have harboured certain convenient illusions about the nature of democracy in the Indian Union.
During the assembly election campaign in Bihar, Union Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised a huge "Bihar package". One would assume that this is some sort of a real decision and not a planned blackmail on the citizens of Bihar through which their votes are sought after in lieu of "Central" cash. And when people didn't vote the way BJP had desired them to, this "Central" cash vanished. Not a single upper-caste Hindi speaking arrogant loud mouth ever talked about those thousands of crores any longer. And even such pronouncements of money for Hindi states are a shame. Whose money is this anyway? It is the money collected from non-Hindi states as revenue—a large portion of it undoubtedly is. And why must such packages even exist? Is the role of the Union government to make non-Hindi states pay money for the privilege of being part of the Union. What privilege are we talking about anyway? To subsidise other people when people of your own state are still poor, and your language and identity is being marginalised on an everyday basis by Delhi forces, which too are directly paid for by you! The carrot like dangling of the Bihar special package was unwarranted, to say the least. I am glad that Narendra Modi didn't keep his promise, for that is mostly the money which Bihar never produced. Such "special packages" are infrequent things. The transfer of money, assets, resources, and jobs from non-Hindi states to Hindi states and the marginalisation of non-Hindi states by Hindi people from Hindi states – this is a daily crime that does not show any immediate signs of halting. But anyway, we were talking about Bihar.
BJP showed in Bihar and then in Gujarat and then in Karnataka, how with shred planning they can realign the powers of the governor and that of central police/military/investigation/intelligence agencies to directly destroy politics in opposition parties and even in opposition ruled states. That is an emergency situation and the world must take notice because we are talking about a Union government that has centralised so much power that structurally, this kind of criminal belligerence underwritten by ideologies of hate and loot, need to be brought to notice of humanity because this organisation rules over nearly a sixth of humanity. It is everybody's problem. If White people's micro problems deserve "global" attention, this one does too. Nitish Kumar resigned from the Chief Minister's post. What should the governor have done? Called the largest party; that is the RJD. Or call the largest pre-poll opposition, which was RJD-JD(U)-Congress, which does still exist as RJD-Congress. The governor used his discretion to carry out BJP's master plan. Nitish Kumar was called again; this time with support from the BJP. This well-orchestrated drama was a shame and the Governor of Bihar is a complete party to it. This is a very dangerous moment. Post-1977, after the rise of State based pro-federalism forces, in the non-AFSPA states of the Indian Union, the fully dictatorial discretionary powers of an unelected Delhi agent like the Governor had been reduced. Now that discretionary powers beast is in a rebound mode. BJP is reconquering territory that Congress had lost for Delhi – its dictatorial powers over the actual representatives of any State.
In Gujarat, the BJP has been trying to simply eat up the elected opposition legislators to the Gujarat state assembly by various threats and enticements, or as has been commonly seen, both. The Congress needed to physically fly them out and that shows the nature of democratic political space that exists in Gujarat. Clearly, its nature is quite despicable. And it is a gang from here that at present rules over the rest via their capture of the Union government's key posts. The Congress kept the Gujarat Congress MLAs in Karnataka at the resort of a Karnataka Congress leader. And now the Union government has launched investigations related to financial crime on the Karnataka Congress leader's businesses and property. Whether he is Mr Clean or not is immaterial. One has to see how agencies are being used to completely destroy the opposition. This is the Indian state coming into its real own self with a Hindi-Hindu core. They know they have ascended the throne and the system allows them to rule indefinitely even as they progressively tighten the grip on all hues of the opposition, especially the non-Hindi and the non-Hindu. But there are differences.
In Tamil Nadu or West Bengal, BJP couldn't have done what they did in Bihar or Karnataka. People would take to the streets against this usurper controlled from outside. It is not as if the BJP doesn't try – they have the present ruling party the AIADMK on its knees and eating from its hand in Tamil Nadu. In West Bengal, it has unleashed all the powers that Delhi could manage to destroy the society of West Bengal and its political representation. They have failed. The CBI or Enforcement Directorate couldn't deliver. West Bengal is not a walk over. It shall fight back—with unquestioned vigour.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
Garga Chatterjee

Garga Chatterjee

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