26 September, 2020

Federal In February?

The winning formula—power to the states—must not remain a Budget slogan

Federal In February?
LESS than 10 minutes into his Budget speech, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram evoked the first snigger among the millions of people who were glued to their T V sets watching the live telecast. He announced that Prime Minister Deve Gowda would inaugurate the Kasturba Gandhi Shiksha Yojna, "a programme to establish special schools for girl children in districts with a particularly low female literacy rate." The cynicism was not directed at the programme itself. The disbelief related more to the possibility of the United Front Government lasting long enough to commemorate the 50th anniversary of India's Independence. The feeling among many was that with the Congress having put the 13-party coalition on notice, the Government could crumble well before that.

However, by the time Chidambaram finished his 90-minute presentation to Parliament—and through the electronic media to the nation—he had managed to achieve the impossible. He had succeeded in generating a surge of enthusiasm which washed away (at least for the time being) all doubts over the Government's longevity. Not only...



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