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The BJP had to bite the dust in Karnataka as the promise of ‘double-engine sarkara' did not take-off. This is because it is a myth and a farce on all three sides — governance, constitutional, and political.
After handing over his resignation as Chief Minister of Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai made some significant observations. One was that the Karnataka poll outcome was not the defeat of Prime Minister Narendra Modi because he was only one of the campaigners. Second was that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not fight this election on the basis of Hindutva agenda. Both these contentions are wrong, as everyone knows that Modi was the epicentre of the campaign. Most of the star campaigners urged Kannadigas to vote for the BJP to strengthen their hands and receive the ‘blessings’ of Modi. Even in the front-page advertisements in leading newspapers, it was Modi all the way. As for the Hindutva agenda, Modi’s clarion call to the voters to shout “Jai Bajrang Bali” as they press the electronic voting machine button on the lotus symbol still rings in one’s ears.
Bommai spoke the truth when he said, “We fought on the basis of the development agenda of the 'double-engine government'.” ‘Double-engine sarkara’ was a frequent war cry raised by the BJP campaign machinery in Karnataka, led by no less than the Prime Minister himself. To drive home the point, the party had brought in their mascot from Uttar Pradesh – Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath – to display the massive success of the ‘double-engine sarkara' in a state that has adopted the ‘bulldozer-bullet’ model of governance. This ‘double-engine’ propaganda was introduced ever since the BJP came to power in the Union government. It is used to seduce voters to vote for the party in state elections, promising accelerated development through allocation of more projects and resources, and enhanced communication between the Union and the state.
This propaganda seemed to have gained traction in the state, as a survey conducted by the Lokniti-CSDS revealed. To the question, “For the development of the state, the ruling party at the Centre and the state should be the same. Do you agree or disagree with the statement?” 26% of respondents fully agreed; 31% somewhat agreed; 21% somewhat disagreed; and 20% fully disagreed, while 2% did not respond.
The fact that ‘double-engine sarkara' was at the centre-stage of the Karnataka campaign is evident from the reports that circulated in the days before the poll. The general narrative was similar to what an opinion piece published by News18 on May 6 said. Beginning with the statement that the Prime Minister’s “high-voltage campaign in Karnataka has led to a perceptible shift in momentum in favour of the BJP,” the article carried lines like, “One thing common in all the regions, be it rural or urban, or any caste group or age demographic … was PM Modi's name and the success of his schemes.” It claimed that Modi’s rallies and roadshows were received by “massive crowds, underscoring both his popularity and positive impact of his policies implemented successfully by the state government.” The article went on to say that Modi, along with BJP national president JP Nadda, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and other party leaders are focusing on the ‘double-engine' government. “The positive messaging of the Prime Minister and other national/state leaders has found resonance amongst voters… This is why BJP strategists are now confident of crossing 110 seats in the state, riding on the silent wave of Brand Modi,” it stated.
Despite all this hype, the BJP had to bite the dust because the ‘double-engine sarkara' clarion just did not take-off and remained confined to BJP supporters. Why so? Because this it is a myth and a farce on all three sides — governance, constitutional, and political.
From a governance perspective, the claim is that 'double-engine' BJP governments would lead to better development and growth prospects, with greater coordination and cooperation between the states where the party is in power and the Union government. But this has not happened, as shown by a study by India Today's Data Intelligence Unit in three states ruled by the BJP and three non-BJP states, across key indicators such as central assistance, economic growth, and human development index over the last ten years. These states are Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan.
Constitutionally, India is structured as a ‘joint-venture’ between the Union and state governments. Dr BR Ambedkar famously said, "The Indian Constitution is a federal Constitution in as much as it established what may be called a dual polity, which will consist of the Union at the Centre and the States at the periphery each endowed with sovereign powers to be exercised in the field assigned to them respectively by the Constitution." This is enshrined in the very first Article of the Constitution: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
The Constitution devotes separate sections to 'Union-State Relations,' (Part XI) and Financial Relations (Part XII). These powers are divided between the Union and states in the executive, legislative, and financial spheres. Because the Union and the state are superior in their respective areas, they are supposed to maintain harmony and balance on a greater scale. As a result, numerous clauses in the Constitution help to govern centre-state relations at various levels. The different provisions define the subjects on which they can legislate, the consequence of inconsistency between state and national law, the Parliament's residuary powers, and many other provisions. Schedule VII includes the Union list, state list, and concurrent list.
Articles 245 to 255 deals with legislative relations between the Union and the states, specifically the Parliament and state legislatures. It analyses the scope of the Union's and states' legislative powers. Articles 256 to 263 deal with administrative relations, including those between the Union government and state governments. Though India is federal, it has unitary characteristics, and so Article 256 states that state governments must ensure that they follow the laws passed by the Parliament and do not conduct any executive or administrative functions in violation of the same. Articles 264 to 293 deal with financial relations between the Union and the states. Because India is a federal country, it adheres to division of powers when it comes to taxation, and it is the responsibility of the Union to allocate funds to the states.
Strengthening the federal system is critical for meeting the demands of the people governed by state governments, while also preserving India's unity. As a result, centre-state relations, or agreements between the Union government and the states regarding their respective powers, functions, and responsibilities, have always been crucial.
The NITI Aayog was constituted by Modi’s first National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, replacing the Planning Commission in performing functions that involve actualising the goal of cooperative federalism and enabling good governance in India. On the premise that strong states make a strong nation, the NITI Aayog acts as the quintessential platform for the Government of India to bring states together as ‘Team India’, to work towards the national development agenda. A number of steps have been taken by NITI Aayog to foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and engagement with the States/UTs on a continuous basis.
As we have seen, the Indian Constitution requires that no government, whatever be its hue, at the Union will discriminate against or in favour of any state government on the basis of political dissonance. To the blatant extent that the ‘double-engine’ metaphor promises special attention to citizens in any state where they vote a sister BJP government to power, this promise is wholly ultra vires and repugnant to the constitutional scheme of things.
What is more, the Union and state governments draw their mandate and the revenue to run its affairs from the people of India. In any event, the loyalty of these governments should be with the people who elected them, irrespective of the political parties they voted for. Suggesting or doing otherwise would be political skulduggery and constitutional fraud that cannot be countenanced.
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