Implications of Hillary-Mamata Meet!

Chief Ministers are constantly complaining that the Union government is ruining federalism by encroaching on the turf of states. Their complaints are valid. But a counter complaint would be equally valid. The states are ruining federalism by encroaching on the turf of the centre. If the Union government does not function there will be no Union. There would be no federalism because without the Union there would be no republic. As media covers the meeting between West Bengal Chief Minister Miss Mamata Banerjee and US Secretary of State Mrs. Hillary Clinton, have the full implications of the event sunk in?

Is it proper for a foreign power to negotiate and discuss a foreign policy issue directly with a state government by circumventing the Union government?

Mrs. Clinton arrived from Bangladesh to India and made her first stop at Kolkata instead of New Delhi. Why? She wants to iron out differences between Bangladesh and the West Bengal government over sharing of the Teesta river waters. Disputes such as this deserve to be settled expeditiously. Only then might the SAARC movement evolve into a proper regional community. India most of all needs such a regional community. The world needs it equally. A South Asian Union of nations would facilitate peace and stability, create a huge and stable market and help maintain a balance of power in Asia. America wants it which is why Mrs. Clinton is intervening in the Teesta river dispute.

This is a foreign policy issue between the Indian and Bangladesh governments. The Indian government could not address the issue because it could not prevail over the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Because the Indian Union government is totally ineffective the US Secretary of State is intervening to directly persuade the West Bengal Chief Minister to accept an agreement. Regardless of whether Miss Banerjee relents or not, is it proper for a foreign power to negotiate and discuss a foreign policy issue directly with a state government by circumventing the Union government? It is improper for the Union government to meekly allow this to happen. It is equally improper for a Chief Minister to directly discuss a foreign policy issue with a foreign government after ignoring India’s own Union government.

This has happened because it is plain for the whole world to see that there is no Union government in India that is actually functioning. It is also plain to the chief ministers who constantly complain about central interference that there is no effective Union government functioning. That is why Miss Banerjee can flout its wishes and have her way. Today it is West Bengal. Tomorrow it might be a foreign power directly negotiating between Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, or between Punjab and Pakistan, or between Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. India for all practical purpose could balkanize painlessly as chief ministers pursue their regional interests while an impotent Union government is unable to act.

The Union government is impotent because of a systemic flaw. In the present system of governance the Prime Minister has no mandate from the states to govern. He is elected only by the Lower House of Parliament. This dilutes demarcation of responsibility between the centre and the states to ruin federalism. This emasculates the Union government to make it ineffective in dealing with the states. Unless the explicitly written intention of the original Constitution to put in place an empowered President elected by both Houses of Parliament and all the states of the Union is respected India will never recover effective governance or national unity. The propensity to wreck the system by continuously ignoring the clear and explicit provisions of the Constitution is an invitation to disaster. 


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

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Comment There has been talk of a Presidential form of Government earlier. But to come to an agreement is such an arduous task that it is well nigh impossible. As India becomes economically stronger, regional strengths too will grow. When regional strengths grow, Centre apparently becomes weaker. But actually the Centre is not weak. Only consensual mechanism takes longer. That is what we are observing. A Presidential form of Government too has its pitfalls. America is a glaring example. It promotes hegemony. Just reflect upon how much the world has suffered because of the Cold War. Things may appear frustrating because of the rise of the Ffth Estate in modern times. But in reality there is constant cushioning that is going on. Plurality of the Indian Society has to be accepted. Rise of regional powers have to be accepted. We have seen how leftists forced UPA Government earlier to take innumerable social measures. Similarly regional satraps will force Union Government to act to remove social and economic imbalances. An unbiased relaxed reflection may always help reach a conclusion, different from the apparent.

Sharbaaniranjan Kundu
17-May-2012 01:11 AM

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