Cooperative Federalism

Cooperative Federalism

This article deals with ‘Cooperative Federalism – Indian Polity.’ This is part of our series on ‘Polity’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here.


Cooperative Federalism

The concept of federalism is where the governments at various levels, i.e., central, state, and local levels, work in synergy with each other for the larger public interest, bypassing the differences between them. 

Some Obstacles to Cooperative Federalism in India 

  1. Proclamation of Emergency under Article 356: Post-1977, the arbitrary use of Article 356 to impose President’s Rule in states has been a persistent issue. 
  2. Union Dominance in Legislative Matters: The Union’s dominance in legislating over the concurrent list and its interference in the state list are also in special cases, such as while ratifying international agreements. 
  3. Governor Appointments without State Consultation: States have no say in the appointment of the Governor.
  4. Centrally Sponsored Schemes: The imposition of centrally sponsored schemes under the ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ approach has been a source of tension. States often find themselves obligated to implement schemes without considering regional variations, leading to inefficiencies. 
  5.  Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) Act: Forcing states to follow the dictates of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management (FRBM) Act before the basic public services of ordinary citizens in States are met.
  6. Deployment of Paramilitary Forces without State Consent: Instances of deploying paramilitary forces in states without their consent, such as the use of central forces in Jammu and Kashmir
  7. Enquiries against Chief Ministers for Personal Reasons: The initiation of inquiries against Chief Ministers for personal or political reasons has been a source of tension. 
  8. Non-Devolution of Powers to Local Governments: The reluctance of states to devolve powers to local governments, particularly in matters under Schedule XI & XII, remains a hurdle. 

How can we achieve Cooperative Federalism? 

  • Consensus Building: Encouraging dialogue and collaboration among states and the central government. For Example, The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was implemented after extensive deliberations and consensus-building among states.
  • Reactivation of the Inter-State Council: Strengthening the constitutional body will facilitate cooperative decision-making between the Centre and the States.
  • Protection of State Interests: Ensuring that on issues such as international treaties, World Trade Organisation obligations, or environmental concerns, the interests of affected states are safeguarded.
  • Greater devolution of power to states: Ideally, the Union should have only those powers which the state can’t handle and require national unity in the form of matters like defence, communication, foreign policy, etc.  
  • Formation of NITI Aayog after scrapping Planning Commission. NITI Aayog has increased the participation of states in its functioning & decision-making.  
  • States’ Involvement in Governor Appointments: Allowing states to have a say in the appointment and removal of Governors to enhance mutual respect
  • Reform of Schedule XI & XII: Abolish Schedule XI & XII & instead work towards a new local list outlining activities and sub-activities under Local Bodies within Schedule 7 itself. 

Side Note: Reasons for the Rise of Cooperative Federalism post-LPG

  • End of single-party Rule at Centre & emergence of Coalition Politics: The era post-1990 witnessed a shift from a dominant single-party system to a more diversified and collaborative political landscape with multiple parties forming coalitions to govern 
  • Judicial activism, exemplified by landmark cases such as the S R Bommai case, has been instrumental in preventing the Union government from misusing constitutional provisions. The judiciary, acting as the guardian of the Constitution, has consistently intervened to safeguard federal principles. 
  • Active Media:  The active role of media in the post-LPG era has contributed significantly to Cooperative Federalism. Informal and vigilant media have played a crucial role in bringing attention to instances where constitutional provisions are at risk of being manipulated for political gains.

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