Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The need to establish a true federal system

Opinion - Leader Page Articles The Hindu Wednesday, Aug 15, 2007
Autonomy for the States, federalism at the Centre Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi
Attempts have been made to impose a unitary form of government in the country. The character of India as a multinational, multilingual, multi-religious state has been blatantly ignored. The relevant recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission on the restructuring of Centre-State relations have not been accepted and implemented in true spirit — as a result of which there has been a persistent trend of centralisation of economic and political powers in the country. The time is ripe now [for a transformation] with almost every major political party realising — by sheer experience and because of objective conditions — the need to establish a true federal system that would strengthen the bonds of mutual cooperation, unity, and cordiality between the Centre and the States.
It needs to be remembered that only the spirit of “co-operative federalism” — and not an attitude of dominance or superiority — can preserve the balance between the Union and the States and promote the good of the people. Under our constitutional system, no single entity can claim superiority. Sovereignty does not lie in any one institution or in any one wing of the government. The power of governance is distributed in several organs and institutions — a sine qua non for good governance. Even if we assume that the Centre has been given a certain dominance over the States, that dominance should be used strictly for the purpose intended, not for oblique purposes. An unusual and extraordinary power like the one contained in Article 356 cannot be employed for furthering the prospects of a political party or to destabilise a duly elected government and a duly constituted Legislative Assembly. The consequences of such improper use may not be evident immediately. But those do not go without any effect. Their consequences become evident in the long run and may be irreversible.
As the DMK is wedded to the principle of more powers to the States to ensure a true federal set-up in India, it has been ceaselessly and tirelessly underlining this principle wherever the occasion arises. It may be recalled that in the Governor’s address of January 20, 2007, in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, it has been explained that “this Government, holding Arignar Anna’s principle of State Autonomy close to its heart, while voicing its demand for rights and at the same time extending a hand of friendship, shall endeavour to secure the due rights and benefits for our State from the Union Government.”
(The writer is Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. His unprecedented record of half a century as a legislator was celebrated recently in Chennai.) Independent India at 60

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