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Increasing non co-operation of state leaders

A sad experience of the coalition governance at the Centre is the increasing difficulty to get the cooperation of regional political parties. The National Development Council meets rarely; when it does, it has not been able to ensure attendance by all chief ministers. Even those who attend often differ violently with Centre’s approach. Remember Tamil Nadu Chief Minister walking out of the NDC meet last time?  

Central Ministers who used to frequent state capitals in the past to explain policy issues do not get audience with state CMs like Jayalalithaa. Senior bureaucrats in Delhi also do not bother to visit state capitals and interact with their counterparts. Of course in a leader-dominant set up other ministers and bureaucrats do not wield much power. With over a dozen shifts and drops in the portfolios of the state ministers in Tamil Nadu, they do not dare interact with the Centre.

This lack of collaboration leads to paralysis of administration. This is best exemplified by the recent imbroglio over the pricing of sugarcane. UP and Maharashtra witnessed a serious confrontation between sugar mills and cane growers. With high production of sugar in successive years and bulging stocks,  sugar prices fell steeply in the open market. Sugar mills burdened with large arrears for sugarcane purchased, are not in a position to pay prices for cane at the same level as in the previous season.  Thus they were forced to delay commencement of crushing normally done during November. State governments of major sugarcane producing states were in no mood to find a quick solution and were content to pass the buck to the Centre. The latter accepted the recommendations of the Dr C Rangarajan Committee to decontrol sugar distribution and pricing and also suggested a formula to share surpluses in the ratio of 70:30. This was a fair recommendation that safeguarded the interests of the cane growers and mills; but state chief ministers were unwilling to give up the prerogative of advising increased minimum prices of sugarcane. The grower lobby obviously is in no mood to accept any price lower than that of the previous season. Thus the burden was fully passed on to the Centre in the form of interest free loans of Rs 6600 crore.

Unfortunately this is not a healthy state of affair where it’ll become difficult for the Centre to make the states agree to any rational economic solution.

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