Maintaining that centralisation of power is detrimental to the socio-economic growth of the country and welfare of states, senior Congress leader Sushil Kumar Shinde on Sunday said that in the current political climate, there is an apprehension whether India is heading towards a “perverted form of democracy”.
Shinde, a former state chief minister and Union home minister, was speaking at an interactive series of Loksatta Sathicha Gazhal Maharashtracha. Warning that any digression from democracy would be detrimental to India, he said that progressive and secular foundation of a democracy should never be compromised.
“Centralisation of power has never worked. Whether it was in the past or now, we have to exercise caution to retain the fundamentals of democracy,” Shinde said. “Today, I am worried which way are we heading. Are we moving towards a perverted form of democracy?” he asked.
Clarifying that his statement was not against any individual leader or party, he added, “India should never lose sight of its progressive and inclusive politics.”
“The lockdown decision taken by central leadership was an outcome of fear and concern to check COVID-19 pandemic. Repeated extensions are justified. At the same time, the government cannot overlook the unrest among the poor who have become jobless,” Shinde said.
“If the concerns of the poor, who are starving and unemployed, is not urgently addressed, it could manifest in revolt. And that would be dangerous.”
On Goods and Services Tax (GST), Shinde said, “GST has left the state entirely dependent on the Centre. A state’s revenue generation sources have dried up. All tax collection and revenue generated through states goes to the Centre. In comparison, devolution of funds from the Centre to states do not fulfil their requirements. The financial support received from the Centre is not adequate.”
“Therefore, the Centre will have to re-took some aspects of GST to accommodate states’ concerns… I am not suggesting a rollback of GST. We should see how things evolve for another year. But some modification in the GST for states’ welfare is necessary,” he added.
Shinde said that the lockdown “euphoria”, which saw people beating thalis or lighting lamps, cannot provide answers to the serious problems faced by the poor. “…Inclusive policies focussed on reaching out to the poor and the oppressed are necessary.”
“Today, even a big real estate developer is worried. The entire hospitality sector is crippled. People are predicting that things will start moving only in October. Imagine what must be the state of daily wage workers,” he said.
Maintaining that divisive politics, which is driven by caste, community and hatred, do not augur well for the nation, Shinde said both Centre and the state have to work together to uphold India’s “progressive legacy”.
Asked about the recent developments over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s election to the Legislative Council, Shinde said: “In such an extraordinary situation, the Governor could have averted such conflict. Some decision, including urging the Election Commission to convene polls, could have been taken earlier if there were reservations in nominating the CM to the Council from the Governor’s quota.”