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“There was a question pertaining to the Calcutta airport and the reply given by the Prime Minister took us all aback at least here in the Opposition because this is the first time a reply of that kind came from the level of the Prime Minister. Of course, at various levels sometimes we are inclined to score certain debating points and we do it, but when the Prime Minister makes a statement such as that Calcutta is a dying city and there are thumping cheers from the ruling party, I feel perturbed.”
This is how BJP Chief Mentor L.K. Advani voiced public’s disbelief over late Rajiv Gandhi’s dig at Left Front Government in West Bengal in March 1985.
A lot of political muck has flowed under Hooghly Bridge since then. But the latest mucky boulder hurled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Kolkata would give high-voltage shock even to Rajiv in his grave. 
Describing Ms. Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress party as symbolizing Terror, Maut (death) and Corruption (TMC), Mr. Modi lashed at her Government for its role and the manner in which it handled the recent collapse of a section of incomplete flyover in Kolkata. 
Mr. Modi described flyover tragedy was “God’s message” to people to save West Bengal from TMC - a remark that was immediately ridiculed by his bete noire, Arvind Kejriwal, who is also well-known for his slander campaign against PM.
This “God’s message” comment ironically lends rationality to flyover contractor’s comment that the collapse was “an act of God”. BJP apparently realized that Mr. Modi had gone overboard. It thus did not mention “God’s message” in its release on PM’s speech! 
Mr. Modi was perhaps settling scores with Ms. Mamata who spewed contempt at him by calling him names such as donkey during May 2014- a few days before he led BJP to sterling victory in Lok Sabha elections. 
It is not for the first time that PM has resorted to what Mr. Lalu Yadav calls Modi’s below-the-belt politics. PM did so aplenty during the Bihar assembly elections too. This led Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, BJP MP Bhola Singh & other leaders questioning Modi’s preference for unparliamentary language. 
Team India Captaincy has touched a new low from Rajiv’s Kolkata ‘dying city’ jibe to Modi’s ‘God’s message’ in flyover tragedy.  
Mr. Modi should introspect and take a decisive call on resolving the conflict between his role as PM and as the star campaigner for BJP at election rallies. 
Mr. Modi is no doubt a great crowd puller. His power to connect with layman has brought unprecedented dividend to BJP. In this vote-mongering business, he has, however, sacrificed his job as a Statesman and as the national reconciliator of deeply fractured polity. If he can’t put on hold his urge to lead BJP into electoral battles with free-wheeling barbs, then he should consider swapping his post with one held by his trusted friend Amit Shah. Many BJP workers would, however, pitch for Advaniji as PM. 
Keeping this BJP’s internal matter aside, we should focus on Mr. Modi’s ostrich-like approach towards worsening conflicts in the country. Be it havoc wreaked on innocent citizens by caste-based reservation agitators as happened in Haryana recently or by another group of protesters; be it religious or caste strife or be it inter-state disputes, Mr. Modi’s Twitter handle gets frozen in such cases.  
His Twitter account shows alacrity only in cases such as terrorist attack in Belgium, whose impact was miniscule as compared to arson, loot, murder and alleged rape in Haryana during the Jat agitation. 
Mr. Modi last month behaved like an indifferent spectator when Akali-BJP Government in Punjab recently defied Supreme Court’s order on three decades-delayed Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal. He did not react when a group of Haryana MLAs tried to storm into Punjab Assembly to protest against Punjab’s refusal to share water with Haryana through SYL.  
How is it that Mr. Modi does not feel perturbed by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal’s threats of blood-shedding and mass sacrifices on this issue? Mr. Badal last month vowed that he was prepared to “shed the last drop of his blood rather than allowing a single drop of water to flow out of the state.” He has also called upon all Punjab MLAs to be prepared for collective death to safeguard Punjab’s water rights.
The Centre cannot wash its hands off SYL issue by citing that the matter is sub-judice. The Supreme Court has yet to give its verdict on UPA Govt’s Presidential Reference made in July 2004 about a law enacted by Punjab Assembly to terminate all its water agreements. 
When a State is repeatedly defying or taking new initiatives to undo past agreements on water sharing with other States, PM must supplement judicial efforts with his statesmanship. In this case, it is crystal-clear that Supreme Court’s verdict would most probably fail or get circumvented again as happened in the past. 
To resolve SYL issue, Mr. Modi should ideally undo Nehru’s folly- the 1960 Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan to improve water availability for all applications in the North. He should tell the whole world that India is already a water-stressed country. The per capita availability of water in India has declined at an alarming pace since 1960 due to population explosion. 
Punjab-Haryana water dispute is not an exception. Several other inter-state water disputes are pending. More are in the making. PM remains unmoved by heart-rending news of daily struggles waged by public to access water that often results in violence and deaths. 
Mr. Modi might like to read Administrative Reforms Commission’s (ARC’s) 7th report on ‘Capacity Building for Conflict Resolution -Friction to Fusion’ submitted in February 2008. The report, which contains one chapter on water says: “Water conflicts continue to divide segments of our society - political parties, States, regions and sub-regions within States, districts, castes and groups and individual farmers...Unless resolved with imagination and understanding, they pose a significant threat to economic growth, social stability and even national unity.”
UPA regime accepted ARC's recommendations relating to inter-state water disputes but never cared to act on them. The status quo continues under NDA. An accepted ARC recommendation reads as: “The Union Government needs to be more proactive and decisive in cases of inter-State river disputes and act with the promptness and sustained attention that such disputes demand.”
The Centre should in fact bring in a bill to amend the Constitution to bring inter-State rivers development and management in its exclusive domain. 
This proposal was forcefully advocated by Mr. R. Ramakrishnan in Rajya Sabha on 20th March 1986. He stated: “the Constitution is a little vague on the subject of river waters. Sir, while the inter-state river water projects are included in the Seventh Schedule, utilisation of water resources is a State subject. This is where the problem comes. The Constitution must be so amended as to make inter-state rivers the property of the nation. I think this can solve the problem for our country.” 
Mr. Modi should not only work on this idea but also hold discussions with the judiciary and NGOs on the balanced interpretation of the right to life. The Judiciary-NGO activism has largely interpreted it as right to fresh air and protection of environment. The activists have overlooked the fact that the right to life hinges more on adequate access to potable water. Right to Life also depends on right to earn livelihood / right to work. 
The rationale and holistic interpretation of fundamental rights and duties should result in easing of judiciary-NGOs combined aversion towards river valley projects. This would pave the way for setting up of dams, inter-linking of rivers and other water projects. This is sure-fire way to creating millions of jobs and accelerating inclusive economic growth.
Water conflicts & projects apart, bloody job quota agitations, rights versus rights battles, inter-state border disputes and other issues also weaken India’s unity. They also have to be addressed and resolved through institutions. And that is the job of Prime Minister. 
It is for Mr. Modi to enliven moribund institutions such as Inter-State Council (ISC), National Integration Council (NIC) and National Population Commission (NPC). The last two institutions have not even been re-constituted by NDA Government. 
In December 2015, Modi Government reconstituted the Inter State Council (ISC) but is yet to convene its meeting. It last met a decade back!
And it last discussed the subject ‘Inter-State River Water Disputes’ at its 4th meeting held on 28th November 1987!
Instead of complaining at public rallies that Ms. Mamata did not attend chief ministers conference convened under the aegis of NITI Aayog even when being in Delhi, Mr. Modi should regularly convene meetings of ISC, NIC, etc. As captain of Team India, it is his duty to connect with CMs and take all of them on board. 
Let him make a new beginning by convening ISC meeting to discuss 273 recommendations of Commission on Centre-State Relations (CCSR). It submitted its seven-volume report in April 2010. The recommendations relate to many challenging issues including inter-state water disputes. Let him also take stock of 139-point action plan on good governance that ISC adopted for implementation by all governments in June 2005.
No Chief Minister can afford to boycott discussion on CCSR recommendations that seek to redefine cooperative federalism and empower States to unlock growth genie. 
Mr. Modi should take CCSR report as the God’s message for him. The report aptly says: “India today has reached that stage of development when ‘Statesmanship’ should lead ‘Politics’, where on one hand the National goals and objectives are fully respected by the political parties and the federal constituents and an equal amount of consciousness and support is shown in addressing the needs and aspirations of the States and the different communities by the Union.”
How long Mr. Modi would duck the Statesmanship mantle and the opportunity to redefine political discourse?
Published by taxindiaonline.com on 12th April 2016
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