Karnataka govt failed to protect state from perils of centralisation: Report

According to Bahutva Karnataka, the removal of Yediyurappa as CM lacked justification; Bommai, his successor, was unable to form a complete council of ministers for several months

Basavaraj Bommai
BJP's Basavaraj Bommai opined that Congress ran a much more "organised" campaign I File photo

As part of its ongoing ‘report card’ series, Bahutva Karnataka, a citizen group consisting of progressive organisations and individuals across the state, released its evaluation of the state government’s performance on ‘federalism’ on Wednesday, giving it a rating of ‘failed.’ The group analysed the state government’s performance from 2019 to 2023.

It accused the government of shirking its constitutional responsibility to safeguard the people of Karnataka from the perils of centralization. Despite India being a ‘Union of States,’ the state government has become increasingly subservient to the ‘whims of puppeteers in New Delhi,’ resulting in a lack of accountability to the people of Karnataka, the report card read.

Vinay Sreenivasa, convener of the forum, told mediapersons, “Karnataka’s economic progress and resources are being expropriated. Our State’s unique cultural heritage is being eroded with the imposition of Hindi, and the State Government has ceded all decision-making power to New Delhi, leaving it unable to advocate for its own people.”

‘Engine in the state, coach in New Delhi’

“The BJP-led Union Government has repeatedly been using the phrase ‘double engine sarkaara,’ suggesting that with the BJP at the Centre, BJP states have an advantage. This is against the very principle of federalism. In truth, the ‘double engine sarkaara’ has its ‘engine’ in the state, but its ‘coach’ is in New Delhi,” the report said.

Also read: Karnataka education: Report slams Bommai govt for hijab ban, saffron agenda

“The state’s share of Central taxes and GST, and funds for Centrally Sponsored Schemes has dropped significantly. While it was 4.71% under the 14th Finance Commission for 2015-2020, it is now 3.64% under the 15th Finance Commission for 2021-26. Karnataka now receives ₹40 for every ₹100 tax revenue that it contributes, down from ₹53. The State Government has failed to advocate for Karnataka with the Central Government. For example, it took three months and much persuasion for the Centre to release funds for flood relief in 2021,” Sreenivasa underlined.

Imposition of Hindi: Sign of coercive federalism

The report stated that the Union government’s tendency to impose linguistic and cultural norms on states has not been resisted enough by the state government which has, in fact, encouraged it or stayed silent. The imposition of Hindi, in particular, is a sign of coercive rather than cooperative federalism, it stated.

“The government has demonstrated an eagerness to implement the recommendations of the 11th volume of the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Official Languages — headed by Amit Shah — to make Hindi a medium of instruction in central educational institutions. In many of the Union Government’s programmes organised in Karnataka, Hindi, rather than Kannada, is used on the stage,” the report said.

Hindi Day is celebrated in the state despite opposition from people of Karnataka, it highlighted. Although Kannada has been given ‘classical language’ status, it has received far less support than other languages,’ it said. In response to a question in the Legislative Council on funds in this regard, the government reply was ‘we have sent a reminder to the Centre,’ the report states.

“Karnataka’s plea to the Centre to conduct competitive examinations for Union Government in Kannada fell on deaf ears. The CRPF recruitment exams were to be initially held only in English and Hindi. While neighbouring states objected, Karnataka did not,” the report said, adding that in all these cases, the state government has failed to take up the cause of Kannadigas.

‘Union overstepping the boundaries of the federal system’

The report stated that in recent years, the Union government has regularly been overstepping the boundaries of the federal system and ignoring the best interests of the state. “Though the BJP vowed to resolve the Mahadayi Water Sharing dispute, there has been silence on the issue (all stakeholders are BJP-run states,” it said.

Also read: Karnataka polls: Left parties not in fray to prevent split in anti-BJP votes

“In July 2021, the Union government set up the Ministry of Cooperation and statements from the minister in charge indicate a move towards setting up multi-state cooperative societies that bypass state governments and fall directly under the ambit of the Union government,” it said.

The recent protests in Karnataka over Amul’s uncharacteristic entry into the Bengaluru retail market, which has been seen as a direct challenge to Karnataka Milk Federation’s Nandini, indicate a lack of trust in the Union government’s intentions with regard to cooperatives, the report said. “The dairy cooperatives are profitable ventures and important for farmers and the people of Karnataka, but the government is doing little to oppose recent developments,” it said.

“The enforcement of NEET – the national eligibility entrance test for undergraduate medical courses has been flagged by Tamil Nadu as being in violation of the principles of federalism since it falls under the ambit of public health — a state subject. Karnataka government has stayed silent on the same,” the report said.

Besides, all the state government advertisements sport the prime minister’s portraits as prominently as or more prominently than the chief minister’s, making the people wonder if ‘The Prime Minister has become the Chief Minister of Karnataka,’ the report said. The state government has shown no interest in standing up for the state’s rights. It has also failed, along with a majority of MPs from Karnataka, in getting justice for Karnataka, the report said.