The Daily Fix

The Daily Fix: BJP must take care to not trample on states’ autonomy as it tries to expand footprint

Everything you need to know for the day (and a little more).

The Big Story: Violating federalism

In 1994, the Supreme Court delivered its most important judgement explaining the spirit of Article 356 of the Constitution, which defines the Centre’s powers to dismiss a state government. Commenting on the nature of India’s federal structure, the court made this vital observation in what is now referred to as the SR Bommai case:

“The fact that under the scheme of our Constitution, greater power is conferred upon the Centre vis-a-vis the States does not mean that States are mere appendages of the Centre. Within the sphere allotted to them. States are supreme. The Centre cannot tamper with their powers.” 

The seat of power of any state government is the secretariat, from where the chief minister, her Cabinet and top officials of the administration discharge their functions. This space is assumed to have great sanctity.

Since the death of former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in December, though, the sanctity of Tamil Nadu’s secretariat has been violated by the Centre twice. On both occasions, the chaotic political situation in Tamil Nadu, where the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam has split into multiple factions, ensured that the state’s response to these transgressions was meek.

On May 14, after a new stretch of the Chennai Metro was inaugurated, Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu chose to review the progress of central schemes from the state’s secretariat. On the face of it, the exercise may not seem damaging. But the context narrates a crucial tale. While Jayalalithaa had, on many occasions, met Union ministers in the secretariat, none of them had ever dared to hold a review meeting in its precincts when she was alive. In fact, even when Bharatiya Janata Party leaders accused Jayalalithaa’s government of stalling the Centre’s flagship schemes during the run up to the 2016 Assembly polls, no Union ministers would even have imagined stepping into the secretariat for any other purpose but to meet her. Most telling was what happened after Naidu’s review: he spoke to the media for 45 minutes while a subservient Tamil Nadu Chief Minister E Palaniswamy watched passively.

A similar incident took place in December 2016, barely 20 days after Jayalalithaa’s death on December 5. The Income Tax department chose to raid the office of the chief secretary even without informing the chief minister’s office.

With a strong leader dead, the BJP might feel that a chance has emerged to dominate the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu. But the BJP has failed to make a distinction between the ruling party and the state government. While political maneuvers to expand in a state where it is weak are legitimate, violating long-held federal conventions will only weaken an important balance the Constitution has struck between the Centre and the state. In this, the AIADMK must share the blame. By allowing the Centre to violate the boundries of the secretariat, the symbol of state governance, it has abdicated the federalist spirit that the Dravidian movement and its leaders energetically nurtured.

The Big Scroll

  • Shoaib Daniyal explains why West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s demand for more freedom to states is crucial and legitimate. 
  • Garga Chaterjee on how the Narendra Modi government has moved to a scheme of coercive federalism.  

Punditry

  1. In The Hindu, Zorawar Daulet Singh writes on why India should be part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and reconcile its geopolitical strategies to larger development goals. 
  2. Chintan Chandrachud in the Indian Express states that deciding whether bilateral agreements should override a multilateral agreement like the Vienna convention would be a crucial aspect of the Kulbhushan Jadhav case at the International Court of Justice. 
  3. In the New York Times, Michelle Goldberg advices President Donald Trump’s aides to heed the voice of reason and quit before it is too late. 

Giggles

Don’t miss

Rayan Naqash reports on the problems the leader-less student agitations pose in Kashmir.

“Kabuli, a former leader of the National Conference, is worried that this wave of protests has ‘gone to the extreme’ but cautions against laying the blame entirely with the students. ‘Pellets, deaths and detentions, the lingering resentment from agitations of previous years,’ he said, ‘still has an impact on their minds.’

He is also concerned that this student agitation is ‘leaderless’ and lacks the ‘intellectual and visionary approach of past movements’. Still, he noted, its momentum will only increase.

Kabuli’s concern is shared by Hilal War, who heads the separatist People’s Political Party. He described it as a ‘situation of anarchy’. ‘We had student leaders in our time,’ he said. ‘Today, everyone is a leader. And it becomes a problem when everyone is a leader.’

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.