Why Modi Should Grab KCR’s ‘More Power To States’ Slogan And Make It His Theme Song For 2019
If Narendra Modi has his political instincts right, he should grab the opening provided by KCR with both hands.
K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), perhaps the only Chief Minister who can be reasonably sure of returning to power in the assembly elections due this year and the next, has demanded a greater devolution of power to the states and the creation of a “People’s Third Front” to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) dominance.
In a statement yesterday (4 March), the Telangana Chief Minister, whose state will hold elections at the same time as the one for the Lok Sabha in 2019, is quoted by The Times of India as saying: “We need cooperative federalism, where states get more powers. Subjects such as health, education, agriculture and urban development should be under the states. The Centre should deal with foreign policy, armed forces and national highways.”
While the so-called People’s Front is humbug – most Third Fronts are “affronts” to the people’s political intelligence – his other demand is valid. If Narendra Modi has his political instincts right, given that achche din have proved elusive so far, he should grab the opening provided by KCR with both hands. He should immediately set up a commission to take a re-look at the Constitution’s provisions for power sharing between Centre and states, and, in particular, the concurrent list.
This will not only become the talking point all over the next one year, but will also divide the opposition, especially if another commission is set up to look at the creation of new states.
The first commission, though, should set the agenda, and be asked to look at devolution of power not only between Centre and states, but also between states and cities.
KCR is raising the right issue – India cannot be ruled from Delhi – but he is being disingenuous if he believes that development can happen from state capitals, except in the case of very small states. Hyderabad needs to get as much freedom to become a world class city as Telangana, for the key to Telangana’s future growth lies in greater urbanisation, high-quality urbanisation. This can’t happen if KCR rules both Telangana and Hyderabad, with the city government being in his hands and not directly elected mayors.
The other commission is equally important, for many of our states are too big, or ethnically too diverse to hold as one. Uttar Pradesh is as big as Brazil, and by the 2021 census, may well overtake the latter’s population. States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal need the same treatment as Andhra Pradesh; ie, divided into smaller states for greater administrative coherence and devolution of power.
Between the two commissions, one for devolution of more financial power to states and further to their big cities, and another to break up the big states, can set the agenda for 2019.
Modi should take the opening provided by KCR.
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