Laying rumours and speculation to rest, Governor Arif Mohammed Khan delivered the Left Democratic Front government’s policy address that poignantly reflected its position and concerns about the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the Assembly on Wednesday.
The spat between the Governor and the government on the CAA had triggered rumours that he would skip such portions. But he sprang a surprise and read out the controversial paragraph. Deviating from the prepared policy address, he said it was in honour of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s wish that he was reading out the paragraph. “Our citizenship can never be on the basis of religion as this goes against the grain of secularism, which is part of the basic structure of our Constitution,” the address said.
“Our constitutional values have to be protected in their form and content. The former devoid of the latter will make out democracy an empty shell, which, I hope, will not be allowed by the people of India.” The Opposition United Democratic Front confronted the Governor with slogans and placards demanding that the President recall him. They blocked him for 10 minutes, but he was led to the podium with a security cordon and the Opposition boycotted the address in protest.
Critical of Centre
The policy was unsparing on its criticism of the Centre’s economic policies. It voiced concern about the slowdown that has adversely impacted the growth rate, revenue buoyancy and Central transfers to the State. The Centre has not released the quinquennial survey reports of the National Sample Survey Organisation since its inception and thus denied policymakers and researchers a prime analytical tool, the address said.
The policy strongly lashed out at the fiscal conservatism being practised by the Centre and warned that mechanical adherence to deficit ratios would be deleterious and aggravate the slowdown. As a policy prescription, the State wanted the Centre to boost private consumption, mainly in the manufacturing sector.
While the revenue prowess of the States is shrinking, their expenditure obligations are on the rise. The slow down has taken a heavy toll on the State which has an uncompromising stance on social sector spending.The sharp cut in Central transfers and reduction in public borrowing in the last quarter of the financial year from ₹10,000 crore to ₹1,900 crore have compounded the financial woes of the State, the policy address said.
By delivering the address as desired by the government, Mr. Khan has blunted the Opposition criticism of deprecating the Assembly.