Mamata's complaints about R-Day parade do her people no credit, drown out West Bengal's legitimate grievances
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee takes complaining to a whole new level. Her latest beef with the Centre happens to be over the exclusion of West Bengal's tableau from the Republic Day parade, which is apparently an insult to the state and was done primarily because of the West Bengal theme: Unity is brotherhood.
There are many reasons for the chief minister of a state to find fault with the Centre. This could include the Centre's failure to effectively resolve an inter-state water dispute or provide the state with adequate aid in the event of a flood or natural disaster.
But West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee takes complaining to a whole new level. Her latest beef with the Centre happens to be over the exclusion of West Bengal's tableau from the Republic Day parade, which is apparently an insult to the state and has been done primarily because of the West Bengal theme: Unity is brotherhood.
This has caused some to argue that such an exclusion is a violation of the principle of federal republicanism and the principles of a representative democracy.
But here's what makes this series of complaints uniquely bizarre. Only fourteen states got to present their tableau at the parade. In fact, only a few states are selected every year. A selection committee — one which the Centre has no say in — comprising the armed forces (who organise the parade) determine which states are chosen.
States are only one component of the parade, they're not its focus. India is the focus. A little bit of India from here and there. Some states, some departments, some parts of the army, some heroes, some neighbours we are close to. India isn't made up of just her states, India is made up of her people. West Bengal isn't excluded as long as there are Bengalis in the parade. People from all states are included through one entry or another.
The question to be considered: Was West Bengal's entry simply not good enough? Or was it time to let another state shine? Simply being West Bengal is no automatic qualification for the parade. In fact, no state can claim entry into the parade as a matter of right. It's a competition between states. And that's what federalism is: A sporting contest between states.
Which is what happened: The best from each state made it to the main parade. Besides, each state has its own parade in its state capital. If anything, the Republic Day parade fosters friendly competition among states. It's like the National Games or any other event which promotes the idea of federalism.
The parade isn't just for states either, the armed forces, government departments also participate and compete for spots. The idea is to have the best parade, not a representative one. To foster the spirit of competition: Representative federalism in action.
The idea that West Bengal was excluded from the parade is without foundation. It makes the West Bengal chief minister sound like a sore loser. Her statements do the people of Bengal no credit and their arguments as to why their sentiments are hurt or why they feel excluded only reiterates the above sentiment.
West Bengal is not being punished. In fact, there were many non-BJP ruled states at the parade, Kerala and Karnataka being prime examples. Their entries were quite good, Kerala stole the show with its display of traditional art forms.
At some point the whining has to stop. Complaints of this nature only serve to drown out whatever legitimate grievances West Bengal may have. Its entry may just have not been up to the mark. They will just have to do what the other states do, and try their luck next year.
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