Speakers at Dakshin Dialogues 2022 were discussing "Building consensus on federalism and the role of the judiciary."
Speakers at the first edition of the 2022 Dakshin Dialogues held in Hyderabad on Saturday, 17 September, came to a consensus that there was a need for state governments from South India to assert themselves, and join hands to uphold and safeguard the federal structure guaranteed and enshrined in the Constitution.
Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Jasti Chelameswar, AIMIM chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi, former Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac, and former National Law School of India vice-chancellor Prof G Mohan Gopal took part in the lively discussion on “Building consensus on federalism and the role of the judiciary”. Veteran journalist Bala Murali Krishna moderated the session.
Justice Chelameswar, giving the instance of the American model where states have independent powers and no two states can be merged without the consensus of the respective states, observed that a state in India can be divided even without taking consent from it just through a law passed in Parliament.
He was, of course, talking about Telangana being carved out of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
Justice Chelameswar said while the decision to hold a common entrance test for medical seats at the national level came from the Supreme Court, education has been on the concurrent list — the one that under India’s federal setup contains legislative powers shared by the Central and state governments.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi said the southern states must build a political consensus on federalism while opposing the Centre’s definition of federalism.
“I don’t know what our prime minister means when he says terms like cooperative federalism and competitive federalism. Federalism is only federalism,” Owaisi said.
Taking a swipe at the BJP, he said that federalism would be harmed if the BJP came to power in more states.
While pointing out that in-democracy federalism is the fundamental structure, Owaisi attacked the BJP-led Union government’s strategy during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If a cabinet secretary sitting in Delhi wants to impose a lockdown in a state he or she has never visited, that is not the way. What does he know what happens here in Ranga Reddy?” he asked.
He also claimed that the Union government had denied the states ₹50,000 crore by levying cess.
Throwing light on federalism, Isaac said, “Transfer of power and resources between the Centre and states is not being done properly. Resources are not being shared systematically and judiciously. The Planning Commission used to set rules and procedures for sharing resources. Now, finance commissions are in their place, and they are discriminatory.”
As the discussion veered towards caste-based reservations, Isaac said opposition to it would have to be diluted by extending some concessions to the economically backward among the majority communities without reducing the reservation for the backward communities.
Taking part in the discussion, Prof G Mohan Gopal opposed centralisation, and said federalism was also a tool of swaraj.
Recounting BR Ambedkar’s initial position on federalism, Gopal said, “Progressive leaders including Ambedkar initially thought that, similar to the US, they could use a strong Union to fight against the regressive forces at the local level like the caste system and so on. But today, actually a lot of the regression has come to the national level and the progressive forces have come to the state level.”
He also opined that federalism and reservation were both about representation.
“If you look at constitutional debates all who spoke about dominant privileged communities saw reservation as a tool for economic upliftment and alleviating backwardness, but everyone who spoke of marginalised sections and minorities saw reservation as a tool of representation, for a share of power, for a voice in government as a tool of swaraj,” he said.
Gopal, who is arguing the case against EWS in the Supreme Court, said it was ultimately a fight for the representation of minorities, being fought in order to continue the power of the oligarchy and get 10 percent for the oligarchy.
Link to the livestream of the inaugural Dakshin Dialogues event held by South First: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-AEKnYA704
Link to all the videos from the event: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbZMvW807JWuNBOcYK5c91w/videos
Link to the news reports from the event: https://www.thesouthfirst.com/category/dakshin-dialogues/