Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Centre-State Relationship in the Era of Coalition Politics

Academic journal article Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences

Centre-State Relationship in the Era of Coalition Politics

Article excerpt

The Centre-State relations have always been a crucial issue. Strengthening the federal system is necessary for preserving the unity of India. The basic structure remains to be one where legislative, administrative and financial powers are disproportionately concentrated in the Union Government with the States having a large number of responsibilities without sufficient autonomy. The period since 1991, which witnessed a paradigm shift in the economic strategy from planned development to a market-oriented one, has also thrown up new issues and challenges for the federal set-up. The need for a thorough restructuring of Centre-State relations, in order to correct existing imbalances and strengthen the federal system by empowering the States with genuine autonomy.

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The breakdown of the national consensus on a parliamentary majority in India, a phenomenon which is characteristic of the function of parliamentary governments in the developing countries has led to a dangerous trend to identify the federal division of powers with sub-national pluralism. In an attempt to seek legitimacy for the coalition governments, which largely depend upon the support of several regional parties, a phenomenon specified to the Indian political system, many of the political parties, which claimed to have demolished one-party dominance have called for the identification of the federal division of powers with sub-national identities representing the pluralist content of the Indian society.

The Constitution of India is federal in form but is more unitary in character. Strengthening the federal system is necessary for preserving the unity of India and meeting the aspirations of the people who are governed through State Governments. Therefore, Centre-State relations, i.e. the arrangements between the Union Government and the States with regard to their powers, functions and responsibilities have always been a crucial issue. The basic structure remains to be one where legislative, administrative and financial powers are disproportionately concentrated in the Union Government with the states having a large number of responsibilities without sufficient autonomy (Bagchi: 2000). Along with significant socio-economic and political changes occurring in the post-independence period, Centre-State relations have also undergone some changes. The period since 1991, which witnessed a paradigm shift in the economic strategy from planned development to a market-oriented one has also thrown up new issues and challenges for the federal set-up. These have an important bearing on the functioning of our democracy as well as the well being of our people. The need for a thorough restructuring of Centre-State relations in order to correct existing imbalances and strengthen the federal system by empowering the states with genuine autonomy is imperative to enable the emergence of a common platform to bring about a restructuring of Centre-State relations.

India has a constitutional and political system which has some federal features. The Constitution provides the Central Government with overarching powers and concentrates administrative and financial powers in its hands. At the same time, there is sharing of powers and resources between the Central Government and the states in a limited fashion. The experience of partition at the time of independence conditioned the Constitution makers to build in various features in the Constitution which worked against the federal principle.

The centre has the power to reorganise the states through Parliament; Governors appointed by the Centre can withhold assent to legislation passed by the state legislature; Parliament can override legislation passed by the states in the national interests; the Governor can play a role in the formation of state governments and the Centre is vested with the power to dismiss the state governments under Article 356; residuary powers are vested with the centre and the major taxation powers lie with the central authority. …

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