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CMs at Inter-State Council meeting say Centre made us ‘beggars’

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New Delhi: A meeting of the Inter-State Council which was convened on Saturday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, along with 17 Union ministers, to deliberate on issues of internal security, economic and social planning, and inter-state relations among other issues has gone stormy.

The meeting was convened after a gap of 10 years. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar demanded that the chief ministers to be given a role in the appointment and removal of governors. Even NDA ally Shiromani Akali Dal accused the Centre, for reducing states to the status of “mere beggars”.

The Punjab deputy chief minister stressed upon the dire need for a “genuine federal structure” in India with devolution of more powers to states. Badal accused the Centre of “usurping the rights and authority of the states in violation of the spirit and provisions of the Constitution”.

He said there was a consensus across party lines that the trend towards centralisation of authority still continued.

He said. “The most dangerous exhibition of this tendency is seen in how the Centre has been quietly shifting subjects from the State List to the Concurrent List and from the Concurrent to the Union List which amounts to constitutional rampage.”

Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, who was represented at the meeting by her finance minister O Panneerselvam, callled for preventing “adventurism by governors”.

“Existing federal democratic structure does not warrant continuance of the gubernatorial post. However, if it is not possible to do away with it, then our opinion is that provisions relating to the appointment of governor must be clearly defined and made transparent,” he said.

Kumar said. “Besides, the chief minister of the state should also be consulted and the criteria laid down by Sarkaria Commission (first Commission on Centre-State Relations), should be followed in the governor’s appointment. The propensity to change the governor whenever a new government is formed must be curbed by making constitutional provisions.”

The Punchchi Commission report too had recommended that for a chief minister’s removal, the governor must give the Leader of the House an opportunity to prove his majority through a floor test, Kumar stressed. “This must be followed in letter and spirit,” he said.

Kumar also quoted the Punchchi Commission report to stress that the use of constitutional provisions like Articles 355 and 356 should be limited to extreme and grave emergencies, when all other options had been exhausted. Noting that suitably amending Article 356 to incorporate the safeguards inherent in the Bommai judgment is an important recommendation of Punchchi Commission.

The chief minister of Tamil Nadu said that a reiteration of the safeguards available for elected state governments and preventing adventurism by governors is very essential.

Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara said that on matters pertaining to constitutional governance and management of Centre-State relations, it was essential to institutionalise the process of consultation between the union and states.

“The states should have greater autonomy in respect of subjects in the State List and the Union should be extremely restrained in asserting parliamentary supremacy over them. Harmonious operation of the Concurrent List could be considered as cooperative federalism at its best,” he said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal also demanded that the Inter-State Council pass a resolution that chief ministers be consulted before the appointment of governors or L-Gs, and that President’s Rule be imposed only if the government loses majority in the assembly. He also raised the issue of Bills passed by the Delhi government that were pending with the Centre, and demanded that they be cleared immediately.

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