Federalism in India : Analysis – UPSC GS2

According to B R Ambedkar: “India’s Draft Constitution can be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.”
Why Federalism has been successful in India?
  • Accommodating linguistic Identities: The States Reorganisation Act allowed India to use federalism to accommodate linguistic diversity, as it could become a source of resistance to centralisation.
  • Led to distribution of political power: Rise of coalition governments, economic liberalisation, regional parties, has provided a favourable ground for political federalism.
  • Role of Institutions: Role of the supreme court in defending federalism and the role of Institutions like finance commission in creating create bi-partisan consensus
  • Asymmetrical nature: Under which special exemptions are given to various states.
Problems associated with Federalism in India:
  • Misused by Union government:
    • Citing procedural impropriety: to oust opponents.
    • Union often ignoring the will of the state legislature: E.g. Bifurcation of erstwhile Andhra was done against the resolution of the state legislature, Stripping statehood of Kashmir.
    • Curtailing the powers of States: Though Centre enables states to suspend labour laws if necessary, but is unwilling to do that in the case of agriculture.
  • Increasing presidentialisation of national politics: a single-party dominance with powerful messaging power, and change in forms of communication, might diminish the stature of chief ministers.
  • Constitutional amendments undermining federalism: Amendments to introduce Goods and Services act is seen as a step to increase centralisation in the system.
Problems associated with states: 
  • Focussed more on political federalism rather than true financial and administrative federalism:
  • Most states are reluctant to honour more decentralisation within, to rural and urban bodies.
  • Failed to make a council of chief ministers a more robust forum.
  • Very few states have shown a zeal to increase their own financial headroom by utilising whatever powers they might have on taxation.

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