N Sathiya Moorthy
“The Centre is trying to weaken States with too much interference,” Jayalalithaa said. “It is completely out of sync with ground realities,” she added. In converting a forum that was called to finalise the draft for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan document into a stage for unilateral political discourse, the AIADMK Chief Minister could not resist the temptation of taking mug-shots at the Congress leader of the ruling coalition at the Centre.
According to Jayalalithaa, the Centre “appears to be hell-bent on penalising non-Congress Governments” in the States, a charge that has been heard for over 40 years. So politicised did her speech become that she could not leave out a bilateral concern like the Palk Bay fishermen’s issue, which had nothing to do with macro-economic development and policies, but everything to do with a neighbouring nation like Sri Lanka.
It is easy for the opponents of power-devolution of any kind in Sri Lanka to use Jayalalithaa’s NDC speech to decry all demands for accommodating the legitimate aspirations of the Tamils in the post-war era. It is easier still for those demanding power-devolution to seek further inspiration from the ‘national discourse’ in neighbouring India, where a quasi-federal scheme at inception has been deemed as more federal than in the past – but seems to be anything but that, if one accepted Jayalalithaa’s arguments.
In a way, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has even touched upon ‘Police powers’, which has been a bone of contention in Sri Lanka. She described the controversial Communal Violence Bill as a “blatant attempt to totally bypass the State Governments and concentrate all powers in the Central Government.” Coming as it does after the Centre conferring all powers for terrorism probes on the newly-formed National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the months after the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, the Communal Violence Bill has been criticised also by the political Right and Left at the same time.
For those in Sri Lanka wanting the nation to have nothing to do with power-devolution, Jayalalithaa’s speech is enough to seal the fate of island-wide discourse on the ‘national problem’. For those supporting power-devolution, it is an inspiration as to the depth and width of national discourses of the kind, and consequent expansion of the scope of powers of the States/Provinces in the Indian context. The truth however lies in between, and that is also the success of Indian democracy – federalism or not. It is dynamic and accommodative, not frozen and unbending.
Add commentComments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.