By Soroor Ahmed
The era of imposing President’s Rule and subsequent demand of scrapping Article 356 is over, at least for now. Things may not be falling apart as Centre still holds control on the country. But then its grip is not so firm as it used to be in the era of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
The former mastered the art of sacking chief ministers. Her son followed it. Even the CMs belonging to the Congress party were not spared. Thus the two did not allow the growth of regional satraps in such a way as now. They were often accused of being anti-democratic though the first elected government was dismissed way back in 1959 in Kerala when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh is cited as just one such example. There are many experts who question the opposition of the chief ministers on the issue of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).
Whether the chief ministers are right or not is a debateable issue, but they forced the Centre to postpone the notification on NCTC. But the issue is jut not confined to NCTC. It is the manner in which several of them are behaving which has alarmed many. Mamata Banerjee and her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar have parroted the issue of special package or status so much that the issue has started losing its importance. The demand, it seems, has more to do with politics and less to do with economics. The chief ministers of these states want to divert the attention from their failure in the respective states and put the ball in the Centre’s court.
Down south the Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalithaa, has developed a very good relationship with her Gujarat counterpart, Narendra Modi, even though she still maintains a distance from the NDA. What is strange is that Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik, who before 2009 election dared to snap ties with the BJP, did not mind attending a tea-part hosted by Jayalalithaa at Tamil Nadu House in Delhi after April 16’s chief ministers meeting even though the other guest was Narendra Modi.
How can they go together? But in politics all such things can not be ruled out.
If federalism is the issue the three discussed then why other BJP chief ministers, Nitish and Mamata did not attend. If Akhilesh Yadav was not invited or had not gone, it is understandable as he would never rub shoulders with Modi and that too so early in his innings.
Mamata and Nitish have a history of a very cordial relationship with Modi. But Mamata’s absence from the Delhi tea-party is understandable as she did not go to the national capital to attend the chief minister’s meeting. But Nitish was very much there yet was not present there.
It is not that Nitish did not like tea so he skipped the tea-party, nor has he any inhibition in talking to any BJP bigwig. In fact till 2009 Lok Sabha election he had a good relationship with Modi. It was only after the Lok Sabha election results, that he observed that the BJP had become weak––so why not to project himself as a candidate for the post of Prime Minister. Rightly or wrongly he started thinking that Modi is the only stumbling block in this path. Therefore, he started avoiding him. What happened to Modi and other BJP leaders during the June 2010 National Executive meeting in Patna is known to all. Nitish first accommodated the Gujarat chief minister at the State Guest House, but later realized the mistake and cancelled the dinner hosted for all the BJP bigwigs present in Patna then.
On the other hand the problem with the BJP is that Modi has become too big for his boots. Whether he is championing the cause of federalism on his own or has the sanction of party is not yet known. But this much is clear both Nitish and Narendra Modi have slightly different agenda, than federalism. They both want to be in race of prime minister––at least they seem to be dreaming so. The likes of Naveen Patnaik, Jayalalithaa, Mamata Banerjee or others may not be too ambitious. They may be making noises to seek their own pound of flesh and deflect the people’s interest.