Q. Discuss challenges to Indian Federalism.


Note: this post is a part of our important question answer series on Constitutional Law. You can read other questions by clicking here.



The word ‘Federal’ finds nowhere mention in the Indian Constitution. But, since in the normal times, the Constitution follow the scheme of federalism, which is now a settled principle, after having several judgements on the same. It can be better phrased as ‘federation sui generis‘ or federation of its own kind. Some of the dangers, which it may have to face in near future, are mentioned below:


I.                   Regionalism

Regionalism or love for one’s area, despite India’s tradition of successful federal rule over the years since independence, still raises its head in different parts of the country. People from far northeast sometimes feel themselves at a formidable distance from New Delhi and people in southern part of the country with bigger states feel neglected having been within larger states. The voice for the demand of more states has become more prominent in recent times, especially after the formation of Telangana in 2014. Recent demands like four-fold division of Uttar Pradesh and the creation of Gorkhaland from West Bengal are instances of aggressive regionalism that pose a threat to the federal structure of India.


II.                Division of Powers

The powers of both the Central and State Governments are specifically enumerated in the Union list and State list respectively while powers mentioned in the Concurrent list are enjoyed by the two sets of governments. The residuary powers are vested in the Central government. All matters of national importance, e.g. defence, foreign affairs, railways, currency are allotted to the Central government while matters that are primarily of local or regional importance e.g., education, public health, police, local administration are assigned to regional governments. Some matters which require the involvement of both the Centre and states like criminal law, forest, economic and social planning are assigned in the Concurrent List. But, Article 200 (reservation of State Bills by the Governor for consideration of the President), emergency provisions under Article 352, 356 and 360 and compulsory compliance by the States with the executive power of the Centre under Article 256 and 257 amounts to centralization of power which has been the major concern among the states.


III.             Constitutional Amendment Power

In a typical federation, the power of amendment to the Federal Constitution lies on a shared basis between the federation and its units. In India, the power of constitutional amendment lies with the Centre under Article 368 and other provisions. Although ratification of half of the states is sought for in some limited areas, the states in the Indian Union have virtually no power in this critical area of governance.


IV.              Misuse of the governor’s power by the successive Governments

Latest, the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in January 2016, while there was an elected government in the State, created a bizarre incidence in the constitutional history of India. This is not an exceptional incident. The abuse of the power under Article 356 by the Central Government is replete in the political history of the country.


V.                 Provision for Integrated Services

Integrated Judiciary, election machinery, all India services etc. are some of the examples.

VI.                     The downgrading of a full-fledged State in Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory in 2019, or more recently, the notification of the NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, reflected the centralizing tendencies of the Union government.

VII.                   Several governmental policies like:

A.      One nation, one market,

B.      One nation, one ration card,

C.      One nation, one grid etc.

All the above discussed things indicate that if the situation is not handled with the strong political will and with the good spirit of federal governance, these problems may create hurdles in our future growth.

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