‘Dual engine’ diminishes federalism | Deccan Herald

Even though the word “federation” is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, Article 1 states that “India, ie Bharat, shall be a union of states”. At independence, given the reality of a fragmented India before the British Raj, a strong center was devised to strengthen the core while ensuring an adequate distribution of powers between the Union government and the States, in bearing in mind scale, sheer diversity and the urgency to institutionalize democratic instincts. The main architect of the Constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar, had noted: “The Indian Constitution is a federal Constitution in that it has established what can be called a dual system which will consist of the Union at the center and the States at the periphery, each endowed with sovereign powers to exercise in the domain which is respectively assigned to them by the Constitution”.

Subsequently, the seventh annex, dealing with the distribution of competences between the Union (List I), State (List II) and concurrent (List III) lists, was drawn up. The real value of federalism in India can be gauged from the empowerment it has given to the various regions and ethnicities within, to preserve personal/regional freedoms and negate the plausibility of majoritarianism, i.e. to say to prevent a government or a group from dominating all the powers. The federal spirit embedded in the Constitution has played an invaluable role in promoting “unity in diversity” in India.

But since independence, all political parties have done their part to diminish the constitutional spirit of federalism. Even India’s dean of democracy, Jawaharlal Nehru, cannot escape blame for starting the trend with the dismissal of the Kerala state government in 1959 by invoking Article 356. Nehru unfortunately used it eight times, but Indira Gandhi an unprecedented 50 times! The use of Section 356 declined in the 1990s, but the federal spirit continued to be disrupted as other creative means were unleashed by the Center to usurp powers, and this was particularly the cases over the past eight years.

Read also | For God’s sake, this is patently unconstitutional!

State autonomy has been greatly restricted by the arbitrary approach to Goods and Services Tax (GST) disbursements and the encroachment on public subjects such as agriculture, education, policing, etc. ., without the mandated consultative mechanisms. Actions by the central executive that have stifled the autonomy and feelings of regions and minorities have been presented as nationalist “masterstrokes”. Even in the purely political arena, the haggling of elected lawmakers (often using the dual tactics of “carrot and stick”) to jump ship, has reached a crescendo – an open and brazen plan to make India’s opposition –mukt Bharat was proudly presented. Indeed, India’s historic federalism is now equated with a systemic weakness. It is both dishonest and opportunistic.

In this context, to suggest a “dual engine sarkar”, i.e. the same party in power in the center and in the state, is shrewd because it aims to achieve even more usurpation, centralization and majoritarianism. This amounts to taking over the entire power structure – a doomsday scenario for any democracy. Inherent in the promise of the “twin engine” is the unspoken seduction of special privileges, as well as the coercive blackmail of depriving a region if it did not opt ​​for alignment with the Center’s partisan dispensation. Like all political things, it is not explicitly stated but clearly implied. The easy-to-understand concept and accompanying underpinnings extract the desired response from the electorate, which buys into the simplistic logic and apparent benefits/threats of the “dual engine”. Whether or not it has led to quantifiable governance benefits in states that already have “dual engine” governments, e.g. Uttar Pradesh, is immaterial as the facts are no longer the reality, the perception is!

The phrase “dual engine” was first used six months after the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014, when Haryana and Maharashtra State Assembly elections were on the line. was repeated afterwards, given its political appeal, and today, as Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat are about to vote, the ‘dual engine’ is once again brazenly posed. As the election campaign gathered pace, with central senior leadership descending on states multiple times to announce megaprojects just weeks and days before states complied with the model code of conduct, the single “double sarkar” spiel. engine “making possible ‘faster approvals for projects'” was put forward.

The lure of the “dual engine” is partly an inducement (like the profusely criticized “freebies”) and partly a threat (that if voters did not vote for the same party – the BJP – project approvals, grants, etc. not open to opposition-run states), clearly diminishing fair play and federalism.

While promoting their partisan policies and claimed outcomes is certainly normal, the “dual engine” theory is based on emotive notions, not facts. The “dual engine” only facilitates the kind of heartbreaking rush seen in pre-decided policies and laws relating to sensitive areas like agriculture, cooperatives, banking, etc., and then pushes them down the path of implementation, without the dignity of consultation or debate. When implementation fails, fingers are pointed at the opposition to portray them as ‘keys in the wheel of development’. From demonetization to the debilitating lockdown of the pandemic on four hours’ notice, to the misuse of investigative agencies – the “masterstroke” megalomania of the sudden strike may impress many on the intent and the government’s presumed purpose, but the long-term impact is always less than welcome. Federalism is about respecting “the other” while “dual engine” is about erasing “the other”.

Federalism is directly related to liberalism, and as the political and social environment becomes less liberal, consultative, or inclusive, federalism will automatically fall victim to it. Most checks and balances institutions are already politicized, accountable and partisan in outlook, it is only a matter of time before unilateralism is normalized. Overall, federalism in democracies weakens whenever the “cult of strong men” prevails, because it leads to the centralization of everything. The “double engine” is yet another means of usurpation. It may not be illegal, but it surely diminishes the last vestiges of opposition and dissent vital in a democracy. This is not the kind of strong central government envisioned by the founding fathers of India’s independence and constitution.

Comments are closed.