Balasaheb Thackeray’s philosophy towards politics was one of principles – the principles of Jai Hind and Jai Maharashtra, which meant that the nation is first, then comes the state. The current political scenario compels the so-called “nationalists” in power at the Center more than ever to revisit its philosophy. The recent developments in the Vedanta-Foxconn agreement highlight how increasing superficiality and partisanship overwhelm governance needs for those in the highest political office.
In line with Balasaheb’s philosophy of nation first, Aditya Thackeray rightly expressed his happiness at the installation of semiconductors in India – but the issue of Maharashtra and its people losing development and opportunity despite having offered the best possible incentives cannot be ignored.
It is often said that “once is an accident; twice is a coincidence and three times is a pattern”. There are several tales of plans and opportunities that were first conceptualized for Maharashtra but ended up going to another state, which seems to have a higher priority for the Center. This “favoritism” is the harsh truth of Indian federalism today.
The planned IFSC center in the Bandra-Kurla complex has been transferred to Gujarat. The National Security Guard & Maritime Policy Academy, originally intended to come to Palghar in Maharashtra, has moved to Dwarka. The shipbreaking facility was moved from Mumbai to Gujarat; Air India’s Mumbai office in Delhi, as well as the Trademark Office – and the list goes on. The Tata-Airbus manufacturing plant could also be lost to Maharashtra thanks to a slavish and publicity-hungry chief minister at the helm.
In the case of the Vedanta-Foxconn agreement, a comparative study was conducted between Talegaon, Maharashtra and Dholera, Gujarat. Considering the various issues involved in setting up a factory in Dholera – such as lack of water supply, skilled labor, electronic manufacturing ecosystem as well as lack of suppliers from the supply chain, secondary manufacturers and the presence of swampy land – it is only natural that the decision to locate the facility in Gujarat will elicit a shocked reaction from those who are aware of the negotiations between the legitimate government (MVA) of Maharashtra and Vedanta.
Maharashtra not only offered a higher capital grant of Rs 40,000 Crore, compared to Rs 28,000 crore by Gujarat, but it also offered more land – 1,100 acres compared to 200 acres in Dholera. The shift of the semiconductor factory to Gujarat, which is neither a big consumer of semiconductors nor a better technical capacity compared to Karnataka, Maharashtra, etc., is disappointing.
Why, despite these more lucrative and profitable deals, has the project moved to less green pastures? It seems inexplicable – unless the agreement was “Amended”. This phenomenon also explains the sudden increase in FDI in Gujarat – the state jumped from sixth to first position in one year. But coming as it does in the context of the upcoming legislative elections in the state, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising.
The Centre‘s mother-in-law treatment of opposition led states is not only astonishing but also unconstitutional and contrary to the ideals of harmony and unity on which India’s governance structure is based. India’s Prime Minister, who calls himself ‘Pradhan Sevak’, should remember that he is meant to serve India’s 138 million people, not just a select few. He often seems to ignore his own words from the Independence Day speech: “The programs may be different, the style of work may be different, but the dreams for the country may not be different.”
Competitive federalism can only be sustained in an environment where competition between political equals (states) is fair and transparent. In an ideal scenario, several states strive to attract business investment and try to offer the best possible incentives, leaving businesses free to make their final choice. However, that is not how things play out when political considerations supersede the economic well-being of the nation as a whole for those in power at the Center.
A BJP leader from Vidarbha defended Vedanta-Foxconn’s move to Gujarat saying that “everyone knows why Vedanta-Foxconn went to Gujarat. As BJP we are one. It is the duty of Maharashtra to ensure that the BJP wins the elections in Gujarat.
“The duty of Maharashtra”? To the detriment of the development and employment of its own youth? The political considerations of the current ruling party in the Center have brought us to this situation – the party rather than the country.
This controversy is only a trigger. The more important question is: who wins and who pays the price for this type of partisan politics? It is the people of the country who end up losing the most in terms of jobs and development. The intervention of the Center, the twisting of arms and the political environment only serve to further deter companies from investing in the country as they are embroiled in controversy.
Competitive federalism cannot be a tool of governance in silos. It must be associated with cooperation between States and with the honesty, transparency and bipartisanship of the Centre. It also cannot ignore the aspect of asymmetrical federalism – different states have different needs and the Center is bound to ensure the development of each unit.
Cooperative and competitive federalisms can be two sides of the same coin. Competition alone cannot yield the best results. It is competition with cooperation (both horizontally and vertically) that will lead to real change.
(The author is a Shiv Sena leader and a Rajya Sabha MP)