Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 15 June 2024

Reimagining Indian federalism

(These are the views of author)

Relevance: GS Paper II

Why in News? The return of coalition governance to New Delhi offers hope.

More About News:

  • In the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fell short of securing a majority on its own.
  • The BJP will have to form a coalition government by relying heavily on its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which are regional parties.

Concerns over Evolution of Indian Federalism:

  • There has been a perceived effort since 2014 to centralize power at the expense of State autonomy, despite rhetoric of cooperative federalism.
  • This brand of federalism is viewed as coercive and combative, seeking to impose uniformity across States, such as the promotion of Hindi in southern States.
  • Central agencies like the ED, CBI, and IT department are perceived as being used to exert pressure on political opponents from regional parties.
  • Decisions like the nationwide lockdown during the pandemic and the creation of the PM CARES Fund are seen as undermining the role and resources of State governments.
  • The abrogation of Article 370 and the revocation of Statehood for Jammu and Kashmir are considered as setting a concerning precedent for other States.
  • There is a perception of disrupting the balance in fiscal federalism, with tools like the levy of cess on various items, which need not be shared with States.
  • The potential lapse of the 91st Amendment in 2016, which could lead to a shift in the representation of States based on population, is seen as a concern for the federal structure.
  • The decision to base the 15th Finance Commission's allocations on the 2011 Census instead of the 1971 Census is viewed as favoring certain States over others based on demographic factors.

The concerns of the southern States:

  • While most people in the South recognize the need for regional balance and support richer states subsidizing poorer ones, it is crucial to ensure this does not result in financial repression of southern states.
  • India's revenue distribution disproportionately favors its worst-performing states, marked by high illiteracy and population growth, leading to high-performing southern states receiving less financial support.
  • Apprehensions exist that the potential increase in Lok Sabha seats for UP and Bihar after delimitation could reduce the political representation and clout of southern states.
  • Questions arise over whether regional parties allied with the BJP, like the TDP, will prioritize addressing the concerns of southern states against centralization tendencies and financial disadvantages.
  • A balanced federal structure is advocated, ensuring fair representation across regions while devising equitable principles for redistribution that do not financially undermine prosperous states.
  • The presence of numerous regional parties in the NDA coalition will genuinely bolster cooperative federalism beyond securing ministerial berths and specific benefits for their respective states.
  • Concern exists that centralization under the BJP government could persist, with regional allies failing to effectively oppose or modify contentious schemes like Agnipath.
  • The earlier stance of PM Modi as Gujarat CM, championing decentralized policy making, competitive federalism and state autonomy, contrasts with a perceived centralizing push after becoming PM.
  • A call for all states to collaboratively devise solutions balancing the needs of redistribution and fair representation, without resorting to "financial repression" of prosperous states.
  • Underlying tensions between centripetal forces of the central government and centrifugal aspirations of states seeking greater autonomy, resources, and decision-making powers aligned with local priorities.

Revive the Inter-State Council

  • The abolition of the Planning Commission has deprived states of a vital forum for discussion and coordination on federal issues.
  • If reinstituting the Planning Commission is not feasible, reviving and overhauling the Inter-State Council could serve as a good starting point.
  • The Inter-State Council, though envisioned in Article 263 of the Constitution, was only convened in the 1990s on the Sarkaria Commission's recommendation.
  • Despite its potential to be a formidable forum for deliberation, the Council has degenerated into a mere appendage of the Ministry of Home Affairs, with little real authority.
  • To serve its intended purpose, the Inter-State Council needs to be revamped and revived as an independent arena for consultation, decision-making, dispute resolution, and coordination among states, governmental departments, and different levels of government.


In India, a country united by a shared sense of belonging amidst its vast diversity, it's crucial that all states, despite differing levels of development, perceive national unity as mutually beneficial. However, addressing issues such as regional, religious, and linguistic tensions requires careful navigation, as approaches emphasizing demographic advantage in resource allocation can strain the delicate fabric of our unity.

Cooperative Federalism

  • In Cooperative federalism the Centre and states share a horizontal relationship, where they "cooperate" in the larger public interest. A
  • It is an important tool to enable states' participation in the formulation and implementation of national policies.
  • Union and the states are constitutionally obliged to cooperate with each other on the matters specified in Schedule VII of the constitution.

Inter-State Council. 

  • Article 263 of the Constitution of India provides for the establishment of an Inter-State Council
  • Provisions concerning an inter-State Council If at any time it appears to the President that the public interests would be served by the establishment of a Council charged with the duty of: 
    • Inquiring into and advising upon disputes which may have arisen between States.
    • Investigating and discussing subjects in which some or all of the States, or the Union and one or more of the States, have a common interest.
    • Making recommendations upon any such subject and, in particular, recommendations for the better coordination of policy and action concerning that subject.
    • It shall be lawful for the President in order to establish such a Council, and to define the nature of the duties to be performed by it and its organization and procedure.”
  • The Commission on Centre-State Relations under the Chairmanship of Justice R. S. Sarkaria in its report in January 1988 recommended that:
    • A permanent Inter-State Council called the Inter-Governmental Council (IGC) should be set up under Article 263.
    • The IGC should be charged with the duties set out in clauses (b) and (c) of Article 263, other than socio-economic planning and development.”(para 9.10.01 of the Report)
  • Government of India accepted the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission to set-up an Inter-State Council and notified the establishment of the Inter-State Council

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