Last week, Narendra Modi, just like Rahul Gandhi some weeks ago, was all over the media assuring people that his party will make India safer for women. There are reasons to suspect that Modi's advertisements were intended to patch up his image after the controversy over his marital status. But letting individual matters aside, why should Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi be talking about women's safety? Safety, women's or men's, is a law and order issue and therefore a state subject; the central government has, and must have, no say in it.
This is just one example of the Centre assuming a role larger than what is given to it by the Constitution. That role is already too large for India to be called a true federation in the real sense of the term, and in a nation as diverse as India, the absence of true federalism is nothing but the absence of true democracy.
Strangely, the architects of our Constitution foresaw this behaviour of the centre. BR Ambedkar, whose birth anniversary was celebrated earlier this week, claimed in the Constituent Assembly on 4 November 1948 that "however much you may deny powers to the Centre, it is difficult to prevent the Centre from becoming strong. Conditions in modern world are such that centralization of powers is inevitable".
But Ambedkar did put in a word of caution. "We must resist the tendency," he warned, "to make it stronger. It cannot chew more than it can digest. Its strength must be commensurate with its weight. It would be a folly to make it so strong that it may fall by its own weight."
It is difficult to say with surety what exactly Ambedkar saw as the difference between a 'strong' and a 'stronger' Centre, but it is likely that he did not wish the Centre to become any stronger than the proposal in front of him on that date.
Whatever that was, it's time Indians woke up and rejected 'national parties' which have begun to usurp state powers, which are already very few in number, for one or the other flimsy reason, evoking strong sentiments such as concern for women's safety. It's time to recognize that all our issues do not automatically require the Centre's attention or action.
It's time to wake up and recognize that the 'national parties' are chewing more than they can digest and getting ready to make the Government of India fall by its own weight. It's time to save India from its 'national parties'.
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