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THE MAMATA MODI TUSSLE – DIDI’S RELUCTANCE FOR ‘MODI’FIED WEST BENGAL

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A) INTRODUCTION

The Constitution of India has a very unique nature. It possesses features which resemble to that of a unitary state (eg. United Kingdom) as well as to that of a federal state (The United States Of America). Just like a unitary state it has features like single citizenship, unified judiciary, emergency provisions, etc and like a federal state it has features like a strong and a written constitution, bicameral legislation, division of powers etc. Prof. K.C Wheare has described India as a ‘quasi federal state’ and the Supreme Court of India has described as a “federal structure with a strong bias towards the Centre.”

Being a quasi federal state, India has a strong central government and a strong relationship exists between the central and state governments.  For a development activity to be conducted smoothly in a particular state, it becomes very important that a healthy relationship exists between the two governments. However this healthy relation becomes difficult to maintain if there are different political parties at different levels. Cheap politics and the clash of different political ideologies hinder growth and development. Political rivalry and conflicts prevent the implementation of the schemes launched by the central government and thus the people of the state suffer.

This political rivalry can be very well explained by giving the example of the political relation that exists between Modi and Mamata. The Bharatiya Janta Party at the centre and the Tirnamool Congress in West Bengal are at no good terms since the day Modi took charge in 2014. Just like FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are rivals in the game of football, Modi and Mamata are rivals in the game of politics. From being a part of the NDA alliance from 1998 to 2006 and literally resigning from the Loksabha when she wasn’t given an opportunity to speak on the issue of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants to being a part of the Mahagathbandhan alliance in 2019 Loksabha elections and targeting the central government for their plans of conducting NRC throughout the country, the Mamata Modi relations have come a long way. The relation between these two political parties is so toxic and strained that TMC has refused to implement all the flagship programmes and schemes of the central government in West Bengal. This might be of some political benefit for the TMC but definitely not in the interests of the people of West Bengal. 

B) TYPES OF CENTRAL GOVERNMENT SCHEMES

The Government of West Bengal has stalled many government schemes to be implemented in the state. The schemes launched by the Government of India can be further classified into central sector scheme and centrally sponsored scheme

a. Central sector schemes are those schemes which are completely funded by the central government. These schemes are based on the subjects mentioned under the central list. It includes schemes like Swwach Bharat, PM-Kisan etc

b. Centrally Sponsored schemes (CCS) are those schemes which are implemented by the state governments. These schemes are funded by the central as well as the state government however the funding of the central government is equal or more than that of the state government. The centre to state funding ratio ranges from 50:50 to 90:10. The CCS are divided into core of the core schemes, core schemes and optional schemes.

C) CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS AND PROCEDURES TO IMPLEMENT GOVERNMENT SCHEMES

The seventh schedule of the constitution divides the legislative powers between the central and the state government under lists such as the central, state and concurrent list. Subjects like public health, law and order, agriculture, trade and commerce, education etc. come under state list. The state government has to launch programmes/schemes for the betterment of the subjects mentioned under the state list. Successful implementation of any development programme requires availability of adequate funds, appropriate policy framework, and effective delivery machinery.

The constitution recognizes this high capital and resource requirement of the states and thus it establishes a finance commission for the period of 5 years under article 280. The finance commission along with NITI Aayog which is the think tank of our country examines and maintains the financial relations between the centre and the state for the implementation of a Centrally Sponsored Scheme. It provides the states, the funds through which they can implement the schemes of the central government or the schemes which are run individually by the state government.  

It is understood that while implementing any centrally sponsored scheme the state government and the union government will have certain differences or queries and thus a sub group of chief ministers on the rationalization of CCS was formed when the governing council of the NITI Aayog met for the first time. The main agenda of this meeting was to work together as Team India towards the goal of VISION 2022. But in spite of all these efforts, the differences between the centre and the government of West Bengal still exist and that to at a greater extent.

D) NON IMPLEMENTATION OF CENTRE’S SCHEMES IN WEST BENGAL

There is no hidden fact that the State Government of West Bengal run by the Tirnamool Congress has stalled the implementation of the schemes launched by the Modi Government. Since 2016, the state is excluding itself from various schemes and initiatives of the Central Government. The state dumped the ‘Smart City’ initiative of the central government and decided to introduce their own ‘Green City’ initiative. Then the state decided to opt out from the Centre’s Transformation of Aspirational Districts scheme which aims to develop and modernize the backward districts of our country. The state government objected to the criteria set up by the centre for identifying backward districts. The non implementation of few flagship schemes of the central government in West Bengal has stirred up a huge debate all over the country, especially after Modi’s visit to West Bengal in January 2020.

The PM Kisan Samman Nidhi is a fully centrally funded scheme providing beneficiaries an income support of Rs 6,000 per year. The only responsibility of the state is of identifying the beneficiary farmer families. It’s surprising that states that have or had a Congress government like Rajasthan, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh implemented this scheme but Mamata Banerjee chose not to. Many farmers of West Bengal did register for this scheme but the state government refused to clear their names. It is estimated that nearly 70 lakh farmers in West Bengal have been affected due to the non implementation of this scheme. The reason given by the West Bengal government for not implementing this scheme is that the government thinks that this scheme is a propaganda vehicle of the central government.

Considering the case for Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojna (PMJAY) or simpy put as the Aayushman Bharat Scheme, it is a scheme that aims to provide free health coverage to the poor and the vulnerable section of our country. In the beginning, Mamata agreed to implement this scheme in West Bengal and it was decided that the scheme would be called as Aayushman Bharat – Swasthya Sathi Yojna. But after few months, she decided to roll out from the scheme. According to her, the central goverrnment was taking entire credit of a scheme even though the state government was bearing 40% of the total costs. She also said that the state doesn’t need any such scheme as it already had its own health protection scheme which is similar to that of Aayushman Bharat called Swasthya Sathi. The Swasthya Sathi Yojna is entirely funded by the state government.  The Aayushman Bharat Yojna was a win situation for Mamta’s government. The government of West Bengal is already under huge a debt crisis. The estimates of outstanding loan for 2018-19 were Rs 3,95,322.57 crore. With the implementation of Aayushman Bharat, it would’ve meant that the Modi government would be responsible for 60% of the total costs of a health scheme was similar to that of Swasthya Sathi thus providing some sought of financial relief for the Government of West Bengal.

Reports have come out that the state is ignoring the funds allotted by the central government under the Jal Jeevan Mission which aims to provide clean and drinkable tap water to each and every household by 2024. The Tirnamool Congress government has ignored the 56% of the funds provided to them by the central government under this scheme since March 2017. The state government has been able to provide only 4,750 tap water connections against their target of providing 32 lakh water connections by 2019-20. The state also seems reluctant to implement ‘one nation-one ration card’ initiative of the central government on the grounds of ‘difference in opinions’.

The question arises why Mamata rejects the schemes of the central government. Does she find serious flaws with these schemes or does she feel that the schemes and the initiatives are against the interests of the people of West Bengal? No, that’s not the case if one looks at the reasons for her non compliance. The Aayushman Bharat scheme (PMJAY) was rejected as Mamata claimed that the central government sent letters to people across the state that had a picture of PM Narendra Modi and a Lotus symbol thus completely ignoring the state government that bears 40% of the total costs. Mamata also rejected the PM-Kisan scheme as she felt that the BJP is spreading “propaganda” by providing income support to the farmers.

The primary reason behind her rebellious behavior towards Modi is that she wishes to retain her CM seat. She aims to win the 2021 Bengal State Assembly elections. She has detected the rise of BJP and Hindu nationalism in her state and this rise is very much evident from the 2019 Loksabha election results. The 2019 Loksabha elections was a big blow to her and her party. It is a total shocker when a political party like BJP, which was completely nonexistent in left dominated Bengal politics until 2014, managed to win 18 out of the 40 Loksabha seats from West Bengal. Also 40% of the total votes in Bengal went to BJP which is little less compared to the vote percentage of TMC. One of the ways through which she can swing the votes in her favor is by denying people the benefits of the schemes launched by the BJP led central government. If people of her state receive those benefits, it is very much obvious that the popularity of BJP will increase to a great extent in Bengal and there are high possibilities that it might win the 2021 State Assembly elections.

This roadmap of TMC to win elections is very debatable, can be considered as highly immoral. But politics and politicians have no morals. They can do anything to grab power. No wonder everything is fair in love, in war and in politics!

– Manav Asrani,

Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.

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