The upcoming panchayat election in Bihar is a good occasion to examine the broader issues faced by the Panchayati Raj Institution (“PRIs”) in Bihar. According to media reports, the State Election Commission of Bihar has started to prepare for the upcoming panchayat election in Bihar, and the poll process would commence from the end of August. Preceded by a 23-year gap as large-scale violence marred the 1978 panchayat elections, the panchayat elections in Bihar have been held on a mandated five-year interval since 2001. However, apart from conducting the panchayat elections, the National Democratic Alliance (“NDA”) government in Bihar has done little to further participatory democracy as the idea of local self-government remains illusory even after about 1,27,391 representatives get elected after every five years. Continue reading Functioning of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Bihar – Devolution or Delegation? Mayank Labh→
The question of federalism and Centre-State relations has been on many people’s minds lately, given that the Centre in the Modi dispensation has been hell bent on usurping the powers of the states while slyly thrusting all responsibility on to their shoulders. As a matter of fact, it was precisely during the outbreak of Covid19, when there should have been maximum cooperation between the Centre and the States, that the strains started showing in a glaring manner. Very early on, it became clear that the Centre was intent upon using the pandemic to usurp more and more powers, while riding roughshod not only on the rights of ordinary citizens but also of the States. In dealing with the pandemic, not only were the mandatory consultations with the States not held, they were in fact simply handed over decisions. The most dramatic of all these, of course, was the completely bizarre manner in which the Lockdown was declared last year, at just four hours notice. The huge tragedy that followed was totally avoidable had there been prior consultations and had the Prime Minister, just for one moment, behaved like one. As a matter of fact, the record of this government over the past seven years has been pretty consistent in this regard at least. Continue reading Why Federalism Must Become the Fulcrum Of Politics In Coming Days→
Some observations and takeaways from State Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Assam in May 2021 – from an original Facebook post. The observations are in the form of informal reflections but they point towards certain developments that might open up new, anticipated spaces for the struggle for a democratic India.
Federalism: The Election verdicts of May 2, 2021, from Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala scream ‘federalism’. The election results are so vastly different in the State Assemblies and Lok Sabha. The election outcomes of Delhi, Maharashtra, Haryana, West Bengal, Kerala are important examples of this phenomenon.
India is a country that naturally lends itself to federalism and greater state autonomy. While the Congress, by and large, didn’t allow for it, the BJP is hell-bent on a deeply centralized structure and crushing any aspiration for regional autonomy. If progressive forces don’t take up the question of federalism and state autonomy, then it runs the risk of slipping into the hands of crude chauvinists and xenophobes like Shiv Sena of yesteryears or secessionists like Khalistanis.
I have just returned from an atrocious talk delivered by a famous Nepal expert, David Seddon, who claims to belong to the ‘old British Marxist tradition of Eric Hobsbawm and E P Thompson’.
So this Mr Seddon is well known in Nepal for a book he wrote three decades back – Nepal in Crisis. More recently, he got along with a local activist to edit a book on the People’s War.
Now, Seddon sahib comes here. He tells a Nepali audience how he is worried about the rising violence and the ‘law and order’ problem. He links the violence with identity – “people feel they have a legitimate basis to pick arms and throw stones because they belong to a caste and ethnic group.” He tells the audience, many of whom have struggled for long to bring some change in the exclusionary Nepali state structure, that ‘identity politics is profoundly undemocratic and federalism is not necessary.” And here is the clincher, “When your constituent assembly members adopted a federal democratic republic, I am sure they were thinking only about the republic part. No one really thought about the federal part.” Continue reading Save the left from left scholars→