Former chief of army Bipin Rawat has assumed office as India's first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) with effect from 1 Jan 2020. CDS is envisaged as a mechanism to bring the army, navy and air force under one leadership. Bipin Rawat will also be the head of the 'Department of Military Affairs' newly formed under the Defence Ministry. That is to say, the armed forces of the country have now come under a single military leadership.
Criticisms have been raised that through this, one more of the sangh parivar's 'one' series of dreams - one law, one election, one language, one civil code, one religion - has become reality. At the same time, many countries of the world do have a single integrated leadership for their armed forces. The debate about the office of CDS in India dates back long; it was one of the recommendations made by the Kargil Review Committee formed after the Kargil war of 1999. But an official declaration of this came for the first time only during the independence speech of prime minister Narendra Modi on15 August 2019. It is a fact that there are different conceptions about the establishment called CDS. But it is natural to have sceptics who view it with reservations when a regime, and the political movement behind it, with a totalitarian proclivity take such a course.
Already there is sufficient concern among advocates of democracy that things are moving in such a hazardous path as to jeopardise the very foundation and structure of the country. The most important of them is about the damage suffered by the federal structure of the nation. From experience, every one understands that through the implementation of GST, the economic self-sufficiency of states has actually has been thoroughly ruined. The reform has reduced state finance ministers to a level of mere accounts managers. And with the amendment in National Investigation Agency (NIA) amendment, the role of state police has been limited to the functions of issuing permission for public speakers and traffic control.
However, even without bringing in any such constitutional amendments, the country's federal character is being eroded in effect gradually. And more such covert measures, without easily visible threats, can be expected in future too. Even the states will realise the hidden hazards only as they move further forward. In other words, we are going through times when vigilant thought has to be given to federalism.
It is when such thoughts about federalism are afloat that the resolution passed by Kerala Assembly against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) also command attention. BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao has served notice to the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha for a privilege motion against chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan for passing the resolution. The contention in the privilege move is that a state assembly's motion against a bill passed by both houses of parliament and signed into law by the President, constitutes a breach of privilege of parliament.
This complaint and ensuing actions may trigger several complex litigations. On a comparable level are the decisions of the governments of Kerala and West Bengal not to implement the National Population Register (NPR) in the backdrop of CAA and National Register of Citizens (NCR). The BJP camp questions the validity of a state refusing to implement a central plan approved by the union government. This again is certain to kick off legal and technical complexities.
The stand against NPR and the assembly resolution can be seen as attempts by the states to express their distinct identities. In the new political scenario, they form a pertinent form of politics with considerable striking power. Given the the backdrop of the anti-CAA protests, opposition parties should be able to take forward this politics in a more developed form.
The example set by Kerala and West Bengal should be adopted by states ruled by Congress too. For the country is currently witnessing its biggest popular protests in the history since independence which is also an agitation to protect the basic structure of the country in its envisioned form. Such a struggle cannot succeed with ease; it needs huge political interventions with real impact.