India @75: Centralism in politics and Sickularism Express

Nirendra Dev 
The great Indian Sickularism Express has taken its journey now towards Bihar.
The locomotive of comedy of errors and contradictions had earlier flirted with its polity
in West Bengal and Maharashtra.
In Maharashtra the journey was derailed as inherent contradictions hit the very foundation of a family which in hunger for power – Shiv Sena – abandoned its essential commitment to the cause of Hindutva. In Bengal, the train had to be derailed by ‘goods train’ run by an ED machine as bags full of Rs 2000 currency notes surfaced.
Now, the flirting season is in Bihar where an opportunist neta has decided to come to the rescue of India’s first dynastic political family. As it is Nitish Kumar was ambitious and restive. He got the crucial encouragement after a couple of Congress leaders sought his ‘services’ to strengthen the battle for 2024 so that the mother-son Sonia Gandhi-Rahul duo is saved from the disgrace and possible humiliation of arrest over the ‘National Herald’
real estate scam and worse – the money laundering.
But before going into merits and demerits of the ‘Bihar journey’ of sickularism bogey; it would be prudent to look at the history of Indian politics of centralism. This is because the latest round of Congress-JD(U) partnership  alongside the corruption-tainted RJD and other sickular players aims at centralism.
The deal between Nitish Kumar and Congress leadership – is something ought to be done to protect the family from the ED scanner. Let’s interfere into the works of probe agencies – being a pledge.
Now, what is centralism and its legacy? Between 1953 and 1997, as many as 95 times the state governments have been overthrown by the centre. This happened around 24 states.
Let us break it further.
Of the first 42 years of Indian history since 1943 — the dominant Nehru-Gandhi dynasty
ruled India for 38 years. The period was shared amongst Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi
and grandson Rajiv Gandhi. Of course later between 2004 and 2014, Rajiv’s wife Sonia Gandhi and his children Rahul and Priyanka (alongside son in law Robert Vadra) ruled India by proxy for ten years.
Jawaharlal Nehru remained utterly dominant during his 17-year rule. Mahatma Gandhi died within six months of country’s independence and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel within three years leaving freehand to Nehru – whose politics largely transformed into democratic centralism.
In this set up – the dynasty believed they cannot be ‘questioned’ and they have permanent right to the seat of power. This arrogance is driving Congress when they come know their leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi would questioned by the ED for the herald scam. The arrogance reflected in their street protest and even summoning Chief Ministers for the TV-and-social media show. Mallikarjun Kharge as LoP Rajya Sabha thought he too is
‘untouchable’ by law enforcement and probe agencies as Parliament session was on.
More into Indira Gandhi’s stint — as many as 40 state governments were overthrown by her in her 17 years of power.
In 1997 when India completed 50 years of its post-independence history — the Congress parry has been in power for 44 years. Yet, the magnetic pull of power is intoxicating. The Congress does not want to give it up. So are others like the communists and so called socialists — who continued with the Congress culture and tradition of governance.
In their scheme of things, the states were kept weak in relation to the centre. All these were acceptable; but the moment the Modi government came to power, the bogies of federal structure and dictatorship are being raised.
Even socialist and communist parties were victims of Congress party’s centralism. Curiously, Nitish Kumar comes from a background which essentially started fighting the dominance and unreasonable autocratic policies of the Congress. But he finds the ‘adjustment’ suitable as he dreams about emerging as the face of opposition against
Narendra Modi in 2024.
Of course there is a minor difference between Nitish Kumar’s efforts to fight Modi as other players such as Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee were products of Congress school of politics.
The power-politics protagonists in Delhi and various state capitals are finding the going tough. Prime Minister Modi’s push for digital economy has frustrated those who did the ‘business’ of public service all these years in cash and middlemen games over the years.
Even communists have ignored one fact that if the constitution makers for some reasons have left Centre stronger vis-a-vis the states; the local bodies in smaller towns and villages were utterly powerless.
Things are changing as the Modi-led regime is bringing in several reforms -often ignored – that empowers local bodies more. Gradually the IAS and state civil service fraternity are finding it tough to handle the rural leadership at village levels. In many cases the women have found their voice and hence proxy rules of corrupt spouses and their political dalals are being put on check.
The Article 40 of our constitution says – “The states shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government”.
There is nothing anti-minority appeasement about this provision. But over the years, this facet has remained neglected despite the Panchayati Raj laws enforced during the Rajiv Gandhi era.
Empowering local panchayats have been a long felt need in rest of India and also
Jammu and Kashmir and Nagaland.
By 2016, it was learnt that the PMO took keen interest in the functioning of the influential

and much respected Gaon Burah bodies in Nagaland. R N Ravi as interlocutor was reportedly instructed to enlist the views of Naga people and villagers at the grassroots levels.

The ‘importance’ given to village bodies did not go down well in Kashmir also. Established
players in the ‘existing power politics structures’ in various states including the likes of Nagaland and Kashmir are upset about such strategies.

Empowering these bodies also go against the well-oiled machinery of corruption, so people
in power can get upset about the same either in northeast, in Telangana or in Bihar.
In all these somewhere is lost the opportunity-driven element in the ‘soul of Nitish Kumar’.
Listening to the ‘soul’, Nitish had dumped RJD in 2017 ending his post 2013 honeymoon
with RJD. The relationship had worsened when the CBI conducted raids at Lalu Prasad’s residence  in an alleged IRCTC scam in which Bihar’s present Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav was also named.
Many, therefore, say continuing in power with RJD till 2024 would be ‘difficult’ to implement
as was perhaps the case a few years back.
For its part, the BJP will pull up sleeves. Chances are at that sheer over confidence in the BJP for 2024 polls would be gone and some excitement in the battle will make the karyakartas  and leaders give up a lackadaisical approach.
In 2021 after Bengal polls and post second wave Covid impact, PM Modi had carried out a reshuffle of his ministry. He may have to do things in minor way again but perhaps more importantly Modi, Amit Shah and J P Nadda along with the likes of Yogi Adityanath will have to work out some organisational revamp in various states especially Bihar, West Bengal, Telangana, Maharashtra and also Assam and northeastern states.
The recent BJP-NDPP seat adjustment alliance for 2023 polls in Nagaland did not go down well with a section of Naga leaders both within the saffron party and those outside but were keen to join the Lotus outfit. In Meghalaya, BJP has multiple problems including how to work on a plan with credible leaders.
Details about the writer:
Nirendra Dev is an Independent writer.
for more details visit his blog