Pinarayi Vijayan leads stir in Delhi against ‘attack on federalism’ by the Centre

CMs from Opposition camp, INDIA leaders join the protest in Delhi; allegations of creating north-south divide baseless, the Kerala Chief Minister says

Updated - February 09, 2024 02:38 am IST

Published - February 08, 2024 01:46 pm IST - New Delhi

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal,  Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and other political leaders during a protest against the Centre at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on February 8, 2024.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan along with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and other political leaders during a protest against the Centre at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on February 8, 2024. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

Hoping to strengthen the unity of the Opposition parties ahead of the coming general elections, leaders of various political outfits joined the protest organised by the Kerala government at Jantar Mantar here on Thursday against the alleged attacks on federalism by the Centre, especially the anomalies in devolution of resources. The meeting turned out to be a gathering of Opposition States with three Chief Ministers, MPs, Ministers and MLAs attending it demanding justice for States. Besides Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who inaugurated the protest, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann joined the agitation. Karnataka Chief Minister and Congress leader Siddaramaiah had held a similar protest on Wednesday.

In his inaugural address, Mr. Vijayan said when federalism was destroyed, it would cause losses to all the States. “On top of that are the politically motivated actions against non-BJP-run States. Efforts are on by certain sections to depict the genuine demands of States as an issue of north-south divide. It is totally untrue, unfounded and baseless. Ours is a democratic protest against the undoing of federal structure and the sheer discrimination against the States irrespective of north-south considerations. However, taking into account the interests of our people and our State, we cannot be quiet,” he said.

Kejriwal’s demand

Mr. Kejriwal said the situation had become such that the States had to come to Jantar Mantar to protest demanding their rights. “Mr. Vijayan is not here to ask some money for his family. He is here to get the allocations due to Kerala,” said Mr. Kejriwal, adding that other than denying resources, the Centre was using Governors and Lieutenant Governors to create impediments to the Opposition-ruled governments. He referred to the arrests of Opposition leaders and said it was “a tactic” used by the BJP to silence the Opposition. “We, the Opposition parties, represent 70 crore people of this country. Are you considering these States as your enemies?” Mr. Kejriwal asked, seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s explanation on the “attacks on federal rights.”

Mr. Mann said the Centre had denied shares of revenues to Punjab too. He said the BJP was “busy communalising” the country and that Punjab needed no lessons from the Sangh Parivar on patriotism. He said the Punjab Governor was even not willing to hold the Assembly session and was trying to deny the democratic rights of the State.

Senior political leaders such as CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D. Raja, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Rajya Sabha member and lawyer Kapil Sibal, Tamil Nadu Minister and DMK leader Palanivel Thiaga Rajan and several Ministers, MPs and MLAs belonging to the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala too attended the gathering. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin sent a video message and Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma sent a message expressing solidarity to the gathering.

Mr. Yechury said someone should teach Mr. Modi the geography of the country as leaders from all regions were part of the protest. “Mr Kejriwal is not south, Mr. Mann is not south, Mr. Farooq Abdullah from Kashmir is not south,” he said, and added that the Sangh Parivar was trying to establish a fascistic Hindu Rashtra replacing the Constitution of the country. Mr. Raja said the Centre was trying to change the definition of democracy by making it the “rule of the corporates, for the corporates and by the corporates.” Mr. Thiaga Rajan said oligarchs would not be able to generate growth and economy would be developed if there was communal harmony and peace.

Mr. Stalin said the BJP-ruled States would also have the same fate of resource crunch sooner or later. He compared denying financial dues of the States to denying oxygen supply and asked the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States to understand that the problem was not limited to States ruled by the Opposition parties.

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