The 4th International Conference on Federalism began in New Delhi on Monday. Over one thousand delegates from different parts of the world are attending the conference being held in Asia for the first time. The conference hopes to promote a dialogue on the renewal and development of federalism and ensure greater cooperation among practitioners in pursuit of good governance. Amongst the attendees the Swiss President Ms. Micheline Calmy Rey, the Comoros President, Mr. Ahmed A M Ambi, the Nigerian Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Mr. Meles Zenawi.

Paying lip service to Federalism on the inaugural day were Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and gutless wonder Shivraj Patil. The irony of the event was perhaps not lost on the attendees as the national capital also saw the sorry spectacle of BJP-JDS legislators from Karnataka petitioning the President Pratibha Patil on the partisan and unconstitutional conduct of Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur. While Yediyurrappa bides his time before he can become the first BJP Chief Minister in a southern state, Thakur has apparently submitted his “final” report grudgingly acknowledging that the BJP-JD(S) combine has the numbers. Thakur has however raised questions of its stability by citing the duplicitous game played by the father-son duo of Deve Gowda and H.D. Kumaraswamy.

The conduct of the Congress Party when in power over the decades should leave no one in doubt on its antipathy to federalism. From the midnight imposition of President’s Rule in Bihar by forcing President Kalam’s hand to the unconstitutional installation of a Shibu Soren cabinet in Jharkhand Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s track record in trampling the federal autonomy of States is checkered. With a pliant Governor in Goa, the Congress has shamelessly held on to power on more than one occasion making a mockery of democracy and the Constitution.

With such a disgraceful track record, it was outrageous to see the lame duck Prime Minister and his walking zombie of a Home Minister deliver platitudes to Federalism. The Prime Minister had the gall to question the legitimacy of a multi-party democracy as he glossed over how his party’s multiple homicides on democracy in the states had contributed to the rise of regional parties. His Home Minister was perhaps more circumspect on the political aspects of Federalism as he limited his remarks to public private partnerships and resource sharing.

The most puzzling aspect of Federalism in India is everyone is for it while in Opposition but go numbingly silent and at times complicit when in Government. The BJP and every regional party including the Communists have been at the receiving end of the misuse of anti-Federal articles in the Constitution like Article 356 as well as the constitutional role of an unelected Governor by the Congress Party ever since Independence. However neither the BJP nor the regional parties have been successful in holding the Congress’ many abuses to account.

There has been no serious political movement to amend the Constitution to get rid of the political stooges holed up in Raj Bhavan’s which have come to be rehab centers for electile dysfunctional politicians like Rameshwar Thakur and Buta Singh.

True Federalism can be achieved in India only when the role of the unelected Governor was abolished and the Central Government stripped of its power to overrule the will of the people. It is time to amend the Constitution to have the Chief Executive in the States elected directly by the people for a fixed tenure. Legislative fragmentation must not be the excuse for continuation anti-Federal provisions of our Constitution in the 21st century.

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