Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday came together to slam central interference in state affairs while acting against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Speaking here while participating in the “Chief Ministers’ conclave on cooperative federalism”, both leaders also hit hard at the issue of non-democratic use of central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“NIA was sent to West Bengal when two died in a blast during last (Durga) Puja season. State police took action. A few days ago, 100 died in a blast in Madhya Pradesh (Jhabua). If two die in Bengal, you (Centre) send NIA, as if we are all terrorists in the state but if 100 die in Madhya Pradesh, you gloss over it. This is discrimination,” said Banerjee.
Kejriwal concurred with the West Bengal chief minister over the misuse of central agencies to browbeat state governments.
“Central government arm-twists states by using agencies like CBI, which is weakening relations,” he said.
Breaking into Bangla spontaneously, Banjeree used a proverb “Jaanen to ileesh maach, Amra boli ekta line, Banglay boli. Maacher tele maach bhaja (Let me say this in Bangla. They (Centre) are frying hilsa fish in its own oil)”, referring to the Centre’s allocation of funds to states from the collected tax.
Banejree said her criticism of the central government was issue-based.
“We supported GST. It was our manifesto commitment. We gave support. But we can’t support the Land Bill. We can never do politics over farmers’ land.”
Both leaders said the chief ministers’ meet was just the beginning of putting in motion the implementation of a federal structure being impinged upon by the central government.
“Declaring (state government) orders null and void is not good. What is happening in Delhi and other states is not cooperative federalism. It is dangerous,” said Banerjee, obliquely referring to the ongoing lieutenant governor-chief minister spat in Delhi.
About her state, she said, decisions were being taken by the governor without informing her.
“Security forces were requested by the governor from the Centre ahead of the municipal elections, and I was not even told. Thanks to (union) home ministry that informed me about the move. This is an example of running a parallel government which is not cooperative federalism,” Banerjee said.
Speaking to IANS, Banerjee said: “You can expect something good to come out of this (meeting). We all will meet again very soon.”
She earlier said: “Winding up of the Planning Commission has been detrimental to the interests of states.A Earlier we used to go to Planning Commission for state plans. But now if you ask I cannot say what our plan size is. No plans for states now.”
She said bulldozing state governments was not democracy.
On increasing state governments’ share in central government-run schemes, she said: “Earlier the share (in bills for schemes) was 90 (centre)-10 (state) abut now it’s 50-50. States’ share has been increased by 40 percent.”
On this occasion, Kejriwal said: “This is the first time in 23 years (of Delhi government) that 30 orders have been struck down by the lieutenant governor. The Centre’s intervention in state matters is not right.”
Hitting out at the Modi government, Kejriwal pitched for implementation of the Sarkaria Commission which says that state should suggest three names for appointment of governor and central government should choose one of them.
He also said: “The police reports to the union government run by a rival party which after being badly defeated in the Delhi elections, is not only hostile to the AAP government but also using the police force as a tool to punish the citizens of Delhi.”
Wednesday’s meet was also significant in the light of the upcoming Bihar polls.
Kejriwal said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar could not attend their Delhi meet as he was occupied with poll preparations.
Delhi government sources, however, said the idea to hold a meet of non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) chief ministers in the capital was mooted by Nitish Kumar.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was also a part of the deliberations on cooperative federalism, but he did not participate in the public address handled by Kejriwal and Banerjee.
Sarkar highlighted during the meet the absence of meetings of the National Development Council, National Integration Council and the winding up of Planning Commission as negative steps by the central government.
Puducherry Chief Minister N. Rangaswamy and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalthanhawla also did not attend the meeting.
Kejriwal, however, admitted to IANS that it was a mistake to announce the date of the meeting in advance without consulting others.
“We announced the date. That was a mistake. We should have consulted all the six chief ministers for a suitable time. Mizoram CM was busy with some finance work, but Puducherry CM has written a very strong letter of support to us,” Kejriwal told IANS.
He said Nitish Kumar and Lalthanhawla also sent letters of support.
“You can expect something major out of this (meeting of CMs). Soon we will meet again after the Bihar polls,” Kejriwal told IANS when asked if this was a consolidation of a secular opposition in the country.