STATE OF PLAY Comment

From Telangana, an extreme proposition

The party in power at the Centre, whether the Congress or the BJP, is trying to usurp the rights guaranteed to the States, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has said. File

The party in power at the Centre, whether the Congress or the BJP, is trying to usurp the rights guaranteed to the States, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has said. File

Hours after the Budget was presented, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao raised a heated debate by floating the idea of rewriting the Constitution. Mr. Rao has been angry at what he perceives to be “step-motherly” treatment meted out by the Centre to the States. He floated the idea of introducing a new Constitution to remedy the situation as the existing Constitution, according to him, has been unable to do so.

Addressing an unusually lengthy press conference, he said there is a Union List, State List, and Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. But the party in power at the Centre, whether the Congress or the BJP, is trying to usurp the rights guaranteed to the States.

As expected, the idea attracted a lot of criticism. Mr. Rao’s comments gave enough ammunition to the Opposition to project the TRS president and his party as “anti-Dalit”. BJP and Congress leaders held separate demonstrations in support of the Constitution drafted by B.R. Ambedkar. BJP State President Bandi Sanjay Kumar said charges of sedition should be filed against the Chief Minister as his remarks had the potential of creating “social disorder”. Telangana Congress President and MP A. Revanth Reddy said there seemed to be a nexus between the TRS and the BJP as the latter too has been working to change the Constitution for quite some time. There was scope for amending the Constitution, but the proposal to introduce an altogether new one showed Mr. Rao’s disrespect for Ambedkar and the sections whose cause he championed, he said. BSP Telangana unit in-charge R.S. Praveen Kumar called the statement irresponsible. He said the formation of Telangana was possible only thanks to the Constitution.

The TRS leaders hit back at the Opposition claiming that the thinking was not new. State Planning Board vice-chairman B. Vinod Kumar said that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had appointed a commission to review the Constitution. Commissions have been formed in the past to examine certain provisions of the Constitution, he said.

Former Central Information Commissioner Madabhushi Sridhar Acharyulu said there was nothing wrong with Mr. Rao’s idea. Referring to the original draft of the Constitution, he said Ambedkar had made it clear that every Article can be replaced, added or amended. The Constitution drafted by Ambedkar has lost its shape as it has been amended many times. The Centre has been consistently trying to usurp the powers of the State, especially in the last seven years, he said. The gazette notifications issued by the Centre notifying the jurisdiction of the Godavari and Krishna rivers without consulting the riparian States is an example of how the Centre is trying to have its say in the State’s affairs, he said.

Notwithstanding Mr. Rao’s apparent anguish at what he perceives to be overreach by the Centre, it is hardly infrequent to witness Centre-State conflicts of this sort. In recent years, issues such as the 15th Finance Commission, the GST, land acquisition policies and more have emerged as flashpoints between the Centre and States ruled by Opposition parties.

The reality is that the Constitution has provided a mechanism for remedy of such conflicts in the form of Article 131, which accords to the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to deal with disputes between the Centre and any States. The application of Article 131 relates to the situation where the rights and power of a State or the Centre are in question.

Before reaching for profoundly deep-rooted reform proposals such as the re-writing of the Consititution, Mr. Rao may find it more politically expedient to apply for legal recourse already made available to his government under existing laws.

ravi.reddy@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2022 4:30:17 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/an-extreme-proposition/article38398081.ece