Maharashtra and the Centre have been locking horns over every possible issue. They haven’t left any stone unturned to launch attacks on each other. The prevailing hostile political environment in Maharashtra has raised the questions of Federalism and freedom of speech with many political pundits, even predicting the president’s rule in the State.
In a federal political society, dispute and argument are obvious. Thus, the Supreme Court and Constitution become important.
India after independence, adopted Federalism, i.e. division of powers and functions between the Centre and State. To eliminate discrepancies, the powers are written in Constitution, and if a dispute happens, then the Supreme Court, the highest judiciary, takes the lead as an umpire.
It is to be noted that independence came with a considerable cost of Partition and number of secessionist movements. Constitutionals forbears, therefore, believed in having a strong Centre with more powers.
The relation between two of the “Saffron lover” of India was not the same before. Let’s have a look into their pre-breakup alliance.
BJP and Shiv Sena Before Break up
Formed with a duel ideology — Marathi regional and Hindu nationalist political party — Shiv Sena in the 1970s started placing more weight on the Hindutva ideology, as the ‘sons of the soil’ cause was weakening, and joined with the BJP. The coalition was so robust that no one ever thought that they would break-up once. However, after the Maharashtra elections in October 2019, Shiv Sena claimed that promises were not kept by their alliance partner BJP and broke ties.
The outcome of it was that Shiv Sena joined hands with the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in a bid to form the government in Maharashtra. Interesting fact is that the ideology of Congress and Shiv Sena was the total opposite.
After Sena cut ties with the BJP and their NDA coalition, the nation saw the war of words and blame game between the two.
Bickering between BJP And Shiv Sena:
- COVID-19 and War of Words
Maharashtra accounts for the largest registered COVID-19 cases in India of 1.7 Million and consecutively, highest death number of 44,804. Since March, there has been continuous word quarrel with Centre blaming Maharashtra for inadequate measures to control the widespread and subsequent migrant crisis in Maharashtra. In contrast, the state government is blaming the Centre for not providing enough financial and medical aid.
As the cases were rising in May with double speed, BJP started “Maharashtra Bachao” Andolan against the “insufficient” precautions of the State to combat COVID-19 with prominent leaders like former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis leading the movement. He said “situation has gone out of hands in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra because of the government’s failure.”
In June, Unjoin Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh slammed state Government for its failure and said “It looks like the situation in Maharashtra is more of a circus than a government. It is highly unfortunate to see State crawling despite having a strong leadership of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.”
On the other hand, Maharashtra government, a coalition of Shiv Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), time and again targeted the government for not providing enough help.
Maharashtra State Cabinet Minister Nitin Raut in May questioned the Centre: “When passengers arriving from abroad landed in Mumbai and started spreading coronavirus in the city, why didn’t the Central Government realize that flights should be stopped immediately?”
Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan said “We need the Central Government to give direct aid. Hollow advice is not going to help.”
Presently, the situation is healing in the State with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) authorities saying COVID-19 active cases dipped by around 30 per cent since October and Mumbai reporting less than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily.
- CBI and general consent
Maharashtra recently withdrew its general consent from allowing Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) to investigate into the State and it has commenced ‘Centre vs State’ debate concerning the organization. Several states such as Rajasthan, West Bengal have withdrawn consent in the past over different issues.
The famous TRP fixing case which was promptly moved from Uttar Pradesh government CBI has created a controversy. The case started with Mumbai police probing Republic TV and their journalist under TRP scam and alleged “disaffection towards police”.
It is to be noted that TRP as a case is not explicitly stated so CBI could take over Maharashtra’s case. However, the timeline changes when Maharashtra use its federal power of Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act which establishes CBI and withdraw general consent.
Quick on what is general consent:
As law and order is a state subject, Central police cannot control or enter the State without the consensus. Thus, CBI can only investigate with the consent of the State.
If a state withdraws general consent, then CBI has to seek permission before it can register a case against a person or an entity based in that State. This results in investigation delay.
It shows the lack of faith in the functioning of the institution, thereby raising a question of credibility. Maharashtra has indicated that that the Centre is using the CBI to target Opposition parties unfairly.
Moreover, with Republic TV case being a peculiar one due to its constant attack on Maharashtra government and supposed aid by the Centre, Mumbai Police reportedly wants to handle the Republic TV case by itself.
- GST Compensation:
With the economy underperforming before the pandemic and the existing coronavirus impact, the Centre has a shortfall on Revenue Collection. This, in turn, impacts the State Compensation Provision of GST.
At the Dushera Rally, CM Uddhav Thackeray said “The GST regime implemented by the government has failed, and PM Modi should acknowledge it and revert to the old tax regime. We (Maharashtra) are yet to get our Rs 38,000 crore as GST refund.”
He also attacked BJP for interfering in the functioning of the states to topple the state governments.
- Kananga Ranaut Controversy:
Following the death of Sushant Singh Rajput in Mumbai and subsequent upheaval in Bihar, Kangana Ranaut took a stab at Mumbai Police and compared Mumbai with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Eventually, BMC partially demolished her Bandra Bungalow with claims in the High Court of completed unauthorized work at her property.
While returning from Manali, she was provided with Y+ security by Union Ministry following her spat with the Maharashtra government and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.
Maharashtra government slammed Centre for the same and CM Uddhav said “People who have no means of livelihood in their home come to Mumbai and betray it.”
- Arnab Goswami and Freedom of Speech Controversy
The recent arrest of Arnab Goswami, a journalist of Republic TV by Mumbai Police has seen a backslash by Union Ministers such as Amit Shah, Prakash Javadekar and Jai Shankar Prasad.
And the 𝘄𝗲𝗮𝗸,𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗠𝗩𝗔 𝗚𝗼𝘃t,dancing on tunes of Congress Party is taking Maharashtra towards emergency.
Where are the advocates & activists for ‘freedom of press’ hiding?
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) November 4, 2020
It creates a hostile controversy where Centre blames the State for murdering freedom of speech, and the State confronts the Centre over its alleged involvement of imprisonment of several journalists all over India.
BJP MLA from Mumbai Atul Bhatkhalkar said: “The Shiv Sena-led MVA government is known for arresting journalists under false pretext.”
The Shiv Sena led Saamana newspaper said the arrest has nothing to do with politics. Still, the suicide case of Anvay Naik and further blamed the previous government for not probing enough. The editorial also points out that journalists are arrested in Gujarat for writing against the State government, and many of them killed in Uttar Pradesh. Nobody felt these incidents to be the reminders of emergency.
- Recent Kanjurmarg Plot:
Kanjurmarg Plot in Mumbai forms a crucial area for the ongoing Metro plot, and Centre claimed that the site belongs to it as it is the part of city’s salt pan lands, a legal battle between Centre and State over the same since the 1980s. The State justified that Centre lost the battle before several tribunals set up under the revenue department.
The Centre reportedly asked the State to stop the Metro car shed work, and the State has denied for the same giving justification that it would halt when High Court issues a stay.
The above cases indicate the hostility between Maharashtra and Centre; if both of them do not surpass their word wars, constant remarks, legal battles, it will lead to delay in public welfare, justice and liberty.