India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States, says Article 1 of the Constitution, and cession cannot be achieved without amending the Constitution, according to the Supreme Court. The BJP government at the Centre seems to think otherwise if one were to go by what Venkaiah Naidu, Union Minister for Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs, said and did in Chennai over the weekend. Invited to participate in the launch of Chennai Metro’s first underground stretch between Thirumangalam and Nehru Park covering a stretch of 7.6 km together with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy, Naidu warned the AIADMK government that if the State government failed to perform, the Centre would cease to support it. “If you perform, we will cooperate. Any cooperation depends on your operations. Otherwise, there will be separation,” he warned. That the Palanaswami government has failed to perform on all fronts is there for all to see. Is separation the remedy? Our brave soldiers are fighting separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and laying down their lives in safeguarding the unity and territorial integrity of the nation. At the other end of the country, where separatist tendencies remain dormant, Naidu has rekindled their sentiments by a threat of separation. What an irony. Does he understand the serious damage he has caused to national unity?
After the Metro rail ceremonies, Naidu held a review of the performance of the State ministry at the secretariat in Fort St. George and told them how to run the government, something never done before. As the Chief Minister remained a supplicant, Naidu ordered officials to ensure notification of the draft rules framed under the Real Estate Act were notified by the end of this month and warned that failure to do so would hit registration of properties. He explained to them the importance of appointing regulatory authorities and appellate tribunals, otherwise registration would not be accepted. As if doing a favour, he released Rs. 1,083 crore to implement two Central schemes, named after the two BJP Prime Ministers even as eyebrows were raised in political and administrative circles. The principles of federalism became victims of the highhandedness of the Union minister. The time is ripe to have a fresh look at federalism. The makers of our Constitution themselves were divided on the subject of federalism. While BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru were in favour of a unitary State, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, along with many likeminded members, stood for the cause of federalism. Ultimately a compromise was arrived at, a sort of quasi-federalism which ensured a balance of power between the Centre and the States. Over time, States have been demanding more autonomy with stress on financial and judicial federalism. With the growing threat to the country’s sovereignty and integrity from forces of terrorism, one least expected a Union minister of Venkaiah Naidu’s stature, who is a former president of the BJP, to hold out the threat of ‘separation’.