PM’s conduct against federal spirit

This file photo taken on September 30, 2016 shows India Prime Minister Narendra Modi gesturing while delivering a speech during the inauguration of the Indian Sanitation Conference in New Delhi.

The repeated refusal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to meet Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and delegations led by him is wrong and improper and would amount to a dereliction of the responsibilities that go with his office. The rejection of the chief minister’s requests for meeting has been widely noticed and has appeared as deliberate and politically motivated. When the prime minister again and again rejects the requests of a chief minister for an appointment, it is bound to be seen as a conscious snub, especially when the chief minister belongs to a different political party. The CPM and the BJP are not just different but are bitter adversaries on the extremes of the political spectrum. As a leader groomed and toughened in the harsh school of politics, Vijayan would not talk about personal humiliation and affront, but he was quick to present the prime minister’s conduct as a sign of lack of concern for the state and an insult to the people.   

Vijayan led an all-party delegation to Delhi last week to seek enhancement of the state’s ration allocation. His request for a meeting on the same issue had been rejected last June. In 2016, he had sought a meeting with the prime minister to bring to his attention the impact of demonetisation on the co-operative sector in Kerala. Again, last year, he wanted to meet the prime minister to seek drought relief for the state. The requests were turned down on all four occasions. It is difficult to accept the argument that the prime minister was so busy that he could not spare some time for the chief minister of a state on four occasions. Even though the issues that were to be raised by the chief minister could be addressed by the ministers concerned, political and official courtesy demanded that the prime minister met him.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has also complained that he could not meet the prime minister though he sought appointments a number of times. A more serious issue than personal or political rebuff is involved in the prime minister’s conduct. It is no example of co-operative federalism, but indeed against the spirit of federalism. The federal idea says that the states are complementary to the Centre. They are not the Centre’s subordinates. Chief ministers represent a state as much as the prime minister represents the country. States and their leaders should be treated with sensitivity and respect and there is room neither for haughtiness nor for petty political conduct. States have a legitimate right to the Centre’s time as much as they have to the nation’s resources. 

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PM’s conduct against federal spirit

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