Chandigarh: Within 24 hours of his speech in which he blamed the central government of “usurping powers of states” and reducing them to “status of mere beggars”, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Sunday changed his tone and put the entire blame for the situation on previous Congress governments.
He, had, on Saturday at the 11th Inter State Council meeting held in New Delhi, stressed upon the “dire need for a genuine federal structure in India with devolution of more powers to states”.
He had maintained that “the centre was usurping the rights and authority of the states in violation of the spirit and even the specific provisions of the Constitution and reducing them to the status of mere beggars”.
But Badal changed his statement on Sunday, blaming previous Congress governments at the centre for this state of affairs.
“We have come a long way from the times when successive Congress governments indulged in constitutional rampage and reduced the states to the level of beggars at centre’s door. No one appreciates the need for empowering states in fiscal and other development matters more than Prime Minister Narendra Modi does, thanks to his long experience as Chief Minister of Gujarat,” Badal said on Sunday in a statement, absolving the present Modi-led government at the centre of the blame.
“The most dangerous exhibition of this tendency is seen in how the centre has been quietly shifting subjects from the State List to the Concurrent List and from the Concurrent to the Union List which amounts to constitutional rampage,” he had said on Saturday in New Delhi.
“Touching the important aspects of center-state relations at the 11th Inter State Council meeting held today in New Delhi, the Deputy Chief Minister said, cutting across party lines, there was a widespread consensus that the trend towards centralization of authority was still continuing.
“He emphasised that states should be given much greater operational freedom to choose and finance development priorities of their people,” a press note issued by the Punjab government, quoting Badal’s speech, had said.
On Sunday, Badal “lauded” the Prime Minister for using his long experience as Chief Minister to usher in “winds of change in political and constitutional climate in favour of federalism” in the country.
“The country is poised for a genuine federal structure and we must rise above political differences to make use of this historic opportunity,” Badal said while trying to cover up the political gaffe he committed at Saturday’s meeting, which embarrassed the NDA government, of which the Akali Dal is a constituent.
“The ball has been set rolling by the Prime Minister for fiscal autonomy and it is for all states and all political parties to forget political differences to make use of the political and constitutional opening created by the new atmosphere under NDA government at the centre,” Badal said on Sunday to clarify his earlier statement.
He said that the “latest inter-state council meeting would be remembered for laying the foundations of inclusive development in the country”.
“Modi was not only well aware of the difficulties faced by the states, but was also best-equipped to come out with much-needed solutions,” he said, adding that he was the country’s most “decisive leader”.
“States are being asked about which model of development suited them best. This will result in states utilising money as per their priorities leading to even more inclusive growth,” he said.