Federal grace

Sibal should swallow his pride,say yes to Nitish’s request to shift Central university to Motihari

Written by The Indian Express | Published:April 2, 2012 3:06 am

Sibal should swallow his pride,say yes to Nitish’s request to shift Central university to Motihari

For a year now,Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal have been on the outs. At the heart of the conflict is the location of a Central university to be set up in Bihar. Nitish wants the university in Motihari,Sibal insists on Gaya. Nitish’s argument is that Gaya has Magadh University; Motihari’s higher education is limited to two colleges and a Central university there would reach out to students in East and West Champaran districts,even Gorakhpur in UP. Sibal says Gaya is well-connected,has an international airport and so will attract students and faculty. A thin argument,given that today Motihari is as well-connected by road from Patna as Gaya is. But it’s not about Motihari versus Gaya. It’s about the Centre asserting authority over a reluctant state.

That’s an all-too familiar story. Most recently,several states,including Bihar,protested strongly against the way the Centre tried to get them to fall in line on the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre arguing that they were shut out of the policymaking process. Nitish has said that he will not “cooperate” with the Centre,a sure signal to Sibal that it may not be smooth sailing for his proposed university in Gaya. Strategy,if not sagacity,would demand the Centre not allow this matter to become the latest episode in the narrative of state rights versus a domineering Centre that is fast becoming fashionable in political circles.

The Congress has a long history of disregard for states’ rights,from the days when it wielded Article 356 against states ruled by political opponents,to the arrogance and mismanagement that has marked the Centre’s dealing with state governments in UPA 2. It’s not just opposition-run states that have a problem with the way the Congress-led government engages the states,or rather fails to; its allies,too,are visibly unimpressed. In times when power has shifted to the states,there’s a price to be paid for the failure to treat the states as equals. Overruling a popular CM’s choice for the venue of a university in his state shows how little UPA 2 is learning.

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