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The Centre out to destroy Kerala?

The Centre out to destroy Kerala?

There has been a criticism right from the start that the approach of the Central Government towards Kerala regarding flood relief is discriminatory and a violation of our federal principles.

However, whenever such criticisms surface, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had been standing aside without giving serious response on the matter. He did not react even about the criticism that the relief fund declared by the Centre was insufficient. TheCentral Government had not only refused to grant the fund requested by the state but also blocked the financial aid assured by foreign countries citing technical reasons. This had led to rampant displeasure among the people. Social media was flooded with criticisms and mockery against the Centre.

The Chief Minister did not react with the required seriousness even then. At a stage when the reporters asked him about this, the CM corrected them saying that they should not always think negatively. When the state is enduring a flood unprecedented in history, he was apparently driven by the practical thought that there is no need to lock horns with the Centre. However, during his tour of the visit to UAE over the last few days, the Chief Minister sharply criticized the Prime Minister and the approach of the Centre in his speeches organized as part of the tour. He also slammed the Centre in the press conference called at Thiruvananthapuram on Monday after his return. The crux of his criticism is that the Centre is making attempts to destroy Kerala.

According to the BJP and Sangh Parivar perspective, Kerala is not a good place. The very reason for this is that the social structure existing in the state does not match their world view. A group which harbours a communal outlook and feudal beliefs will naturally have an abhorrence towards a state which has high political consciousness, amity cutting across religions and relatively liberal views. That aversion had reached its peak during the time of deluge. The Sangh Parivar profiles on social media had been rampantly spreading anti-Kerala sentiments. Calls such as not to offer any aid to Kerala were widespread. There were also endemic campaigns to provide aid only to the Hindus if at all assistance was being offered and also not to contribute towards the Chief Minister’s relief fund.

On the whole, they were manufacturing a kind of anti-Kerala sentiment. Those who tended to write it off as an overzealous act of Sangh parivar rank and file, were soon proved wrong by the Central Government's responses that followed. Not only that the Centre did not grant the amount that was requested, it even dissuaded the foreign countries which were prepared to extend relief aid. After all that, when the state government decided to send ministers abroad to raise funds from Non-Resident Keralites, the Centre put impediments for that too. It is true that the authority to regulate the foreign tours of ministers rests with the Centre. Nor can it be said that only with minister’s tours can funds be raised. But the Central government action of blocking the trips of all ministers cannot be viewed in isolation. That can happen on the basis of a firm decision to isolate and squeeze Kerala.

Our Constitution has not defined the states as entities to exist like slaves under a highly centralized national government, nor centre-state relations in that framework. Instead, it envisions a federal set-up based on mutual respect and autonomy. But Modi government has been adopting an approach that torpedoes this concept extensively, more so in the case of Kerala. The Centre's approach in relation to flood relief only strengthens this criticism. The chief Minister's strong words of blame came in the backdrop of this approach getting hardened. It is an unusual situation when a chief minister is forced to publicly state that the Central Government is out to destroy his state. Also worth noticing is the fact that it is when BJP - which goes loquacious about national unity and integrity – rules the country that this attitude is visible which can strike at the very root of national integration. The people of Kerala have to get united, forgetting political differences, against the step-motherly treatment meted out even during times of tragedy, towards a state and its people.

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