APP Users: If unable to download, please re-install our APP.
Only logged in User can create notes
Only logged in User can create notes

General Studies 2 >> Polity

audio may take few seconds to load



1. Context
In the last decade, the government has been emphasising more on cooperative and competitive federalism through National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog. However, many state governments often allege that the Union government is not sharing the fund of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation and this has led to a confrontational federalism.
2. What is federalism?
Federalism delineates authority between the central or federal government and its constituent states. How this arrangement functions is facilitated by a constitutional framework, which typically serves dual purposes:
firstly, to mitigate the risk of majority tyranny, and secondly, to fortify the union. There are several classifications of federalism, broadly falling into three categories:
  • Holding Together Federation, Coming Together Federation, and Asymmetrical Federation. In Holding Together Federation, power-sharing among diverse constituent parts accommodates a nation's diversity, often with a central authority predominating, as seen in countries like India, Spain, and Belgium. Coming Together Federation involves separate states merging to form a more unified entity, granting states greater autonomy compared to holding federations, as seen in examples like the United States, Australia, and Switzerland.
  • Asymmetrical Federation describes a federal structure where components of a nation possess uneven powers and relationships across political, administrative, and financial domains. Asymmetry can be observed vertically (between states and the center) and horizontally (among states), exemplified by nations like Russia (Chechnya), Ethiopia (Tigray), Canada (Quebec), and India (excluding Jammu and Kashmir post-2019), with additional special provisions granted to India's northeastern states under various clauses of Article 371.
3. India’s journey towards federalism
  • India's journey towards federalism traces back to its struggle for independence from colonial rule, during which the quest for autonomy and self-governance resonated strongly among various linguistic, cultural, and geographical communities.
  • The architects of the Indian Constitution acknowledged the imperative of preserving the nation's ethos of unity in diversity. Consequently, the Indian Constitution established a federal system of governance, embodying typical federal features such as bicameralism, dual governments (Union and State), a constitution with provisions neither excessively rigid nor too facile to amend, and an independent judiciary to uphold checks and balances.
  • However, alongside these federal traits, the Indian constitution also incorporates unitary or non-federal elements, including a robust central government, a singular constitution, unified citizenship, appointment of state governors by the central authority, all-India services, emergency provisions, among others.
  • Notably, while the term "federation" is absent in the Constitution, Article 1 designates India as a "Union of States," implying that no state possesses the authority to secede from the federation, and the Indian Federation doesn't stem from a compact among individual states.
  • Consequently, India is often characterized as a "holding together federation," with political analysts like K. C. Wheare labeling Indian federalism as quasi-federal. In a quasi-federal setup, the central government holds more sway than the states.

4. Evolution of federalism in India

Since achieving independence, the trajectory of federalism in India has been dynamic and can be delineated across various phases: inner-party federalism, multi-party federalism, cooperative federalism, competitive federalism, confrontational federalism, and bargaining federalism.
  • 4.1. Inner-party federalism:
During the initial phase of federalism (1950-1968), known as inner-party federalism, significant disputes between the central government and the states were typically resolved within Congress party forums, forming what political scientist Rajni Kothari termed the "Congress System." This approach helped mitigate major federal conflicts, fostering a consensus-based form of inner-party federalism.
However, in 1959, the Union government's dismissal of Kerala's state government marked an early assertion of central power over states. Additionally, the Congress Party's loss of autonomy following its split in 1969 contributed to heightened centralization and authoritarianism under Indira Gandhi's leadership, leading to subordination of regional leaders and organizational structures.
  • 4.2. Multi-Party Federalism:
The subsequent phase, multi-party federalism, emerged in the 1990s during the coalition era, characterized by national parties failing to secure parliamentary majorities. National coalitions, led by Congress (UPA) and BJP (NDA), relied on regional powers to maintain influence at the union level, resulting in reduced Center-state confrontations and arbitrary use of Article 356 to topple state governments.
A pivotal moment during this phase was the 1994 Supreme Court ruling (SR Bommai v. Union of India), which challenged the Center's discretionary use of this provision.
  • 4.3. Co-operative federalism:
It is another phase, coincided with economic liberalization, granting chief ministers and state governments significant autonomy in business initiatives and attracting foreign investment. The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts of 1992 further empowered local self-government, laying the groundwork for genuine federalism through Union-state discussions and contests.
  • 4.4. Competitive federalism:
It is advocated by the central government, emphasized collaboration through measures like enacting GST laws and establishing institutions like the GST Council and NITI Aayog. However, disagreements persisted on various policy matters, including the Citizenship Amendment Act, agricultural legislation, GST compensation, and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 4.5. Confrontational federalism:
It is resurfaced with the rise of the NDA in 2014, characterized by disputes between opposition-led states and the central government. Examples include state program blockades, governor interventions, fiscal centralization, government instability, and encroachment on state rights.
  • 4.6. Bargaining federalism:
Bargaining federalism highlights the center's dominant negotiating role, often at the expense of states, although states' bargaining strength increased during the 1990s due to regionalized party systems and economic liberalization.
In summary, Indian federalism transitioned post-1991 towards negotiation federalism, where states engaged in bargaining to settle political and economic disputes. While cooperative and competitive federalism offer inherent advantages, confrontational federalism underscores the necessity for state and federal governments to negotiate on behalf of the populace, prioritizing welfare and national progress.
For Prelims: Federalism, Centre State Relations, Special status, NITI Aayog,Article 371
For Mains:1.Critically analyze the constitutional provisions that ensure federalism in India. How do these provisions ensure a balance of power between the Centre and the States?
Source: Indianexpress

Share to Social