To prepare for Indian Polity for any competitive exam, aspirants have to know about the basics of Federal Governance. It gives an idea of all the topics important for the IAS Exam and the polity syllabus (GS-II). Federal Governance and related topics are extremely important for the UPSC Exam. This is an essential portion of the polity. As IAS aspirants, you should be thorough with the Federal Governance. This article will provide you with relevant details about the Notable Criticism of Indian Federalism.



  • Quasi-federal” – “Indian Union is a unitary state with subsidiary federal features rather than a federal state with subsidiary unitary features.”- KC Wheare
  • Indian system is “extremely federal” – Paul Appleby
  • Morris Jones termed it as a “bargaining federalism”.
  • “Federation with a strong centralizing tendency”- Ivor Jennings

Indian federalism is “cooperative federalism”– Granville Austin.


  • Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent political units.
  • Indian model of federalism is called quasi-federal systemas it contains major features of both a federation and union. It can be better phrased as ‘federation sui generis‘ or federation of its own kind.
  • Article 1 of the Constitution of India states that ‘India that is Bharat shall be a union of states’.
  • Indian federation was not a product of coming together of states to form the federal union of India. It was rather a conversion of a unitary system into a federal system.
  • It is a compromise between two conflicting considerations such as autonomy enjoyed by states within the constitutionally prescribed limit (State List) and the need for a strong centre in view of the unity and integrity of the country (Union List).


  • Politicization of Governors and imposition of President’s rule – Appointment (Art.155) and Removal (no procedure for impeachment). E.g. appointment of Ex-CJI P Sathasivam as Kerala Governor.
  • Unequal Representation of States in the Rajya Sabha– Many UTs don’t even qualify to get 1 seat. Just 10 big states occupy nearly 70% seats.
  • Demands for New States and assertion of more autonomy – Gorkhaland (WB), Vidarbha (MH)
  • Inter-State Water sharing conflicts– Between Kerala and Tamil Nadu for Cauvery river.
  • Territorial disputes between states – MH and KA over Belgaum region.
  • Demand for Special Category Status (SCS) – E.g. Andhra Pradesh


  1. Regionalism
    • It is considered one of the significant challenges to federalism in India.
    • Federalism best thrives as a democratic system when it mitigates the centralization of power sharing between the centre and the states.
    • The pluralist character of India gives rise to many factors including regionalism. E.g. Northeast peoples feel themselves ignored by New Delhi and people in southern part 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. E.g. like four-fold division of Uttar Pradesh and the creation of Gorkhaland from West Bengal are instances of aggressive regionalism. The agitations for Gorkhaland, Bodoland, and Karbi Anglong have been revived.
    • This is apart from the new demands for a separate Vidarbha State in Maharashtra, and Harit Pradesh and Poorvanchal in Uttar Pradesh. The more the number of states the more the centre will be held hostage to state parties on matters of national importance.
  1. Division of Powers
    • In India, distribution of power is made under Three Lists found in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
    • Powers mentioned in the Concurrent list are enjoyed by the two sets of governments. The residuary powers are vested in the Central
    • All matters of national importance are allotted to the Central government while matters that are primarily of local or regional importance 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.
    • However, in the case of conflict over the legislation on any of the subjects mentioned in the Concurrent List, the Centre supersedes the States.
    • 200 (reservation of State Bills by the Governor for consideration of the President), emergency provisions under Art. 352, 356 and 360 and Art. 256 and 257 (compulsory compliance by the States with the executive power of the Centre) amount to centralisation of power which has been the major concern among the states.
    • Centralisation is as such a threat to Indian federalism.


  1. Absence of Fiscal Federalism
    • The Indian Constitution, while expressly vesting the Centre with greater powers of taxation, also provides for an institutional mechanismthe Finance Commission — to determine the share of the states in the Central tax revenues by way of correcting this imbalance.
    • While deciding the devolution of taxes and the provisions of grants the Finance Commission is required to address both the vertical imbalance between the Centre and the States and the horizontal imbalance between states.
    • At present, about 40 percent of Central revenues (tax and non-tax) is transferred to the States.
    • Despite the enlargement of the shareable pool under the 80th Amendment which includes all central taxes, the revenue accruals of the Centre and the States have not seen any major changes.
    • Asymmetrical sharing of revenue and resource crunch at the periphery results in uneven development across the country.
    • The current GST measure is feared by many states to be against fiscal federalism in India.
    • Many states in India demand for more financial autonomy in India.


  1. Unequal Representation of Units
    • With a view to preventing the evil of predominant influence of larger units over smaller units in a federation, most federations in the world have resorted to some constitutional mechanism like an equal representation of units or states in the Second Chamber and ratification of all amendments to the Constitution by states.
    • In India, there is no such provision of an equal representation of states in the Rajya Sabha and nor the states have any substantial say over the amendments done to the Constitution from time to time (equal representation of states in the Rajya Sabha have recommended by Punchhi commission)


  1. Centralized 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 Art. 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.


  1. Office of the governor
    • The office of Governor for each state in India has been a sensitive issue as it sometimes poses a threat to the federal character of Indian Union.
    • Centre’s visible arbitrariness in misusing such constitutional office has been the subject of acrimonious debates and divergent opinions in the country.
    • The overt support of the Central Government to the Governor in this critical matter speak volume of the inbuilt weakness in India’s quasi-federal structure.
    • The abuse of the power under Art. 356 by the Central Government is replete in the political history of the country. This has resulted in cementing of centralized forces and disaffection of constituent states towards the federal character of the Indian Polity.


  1. Single Constitution and Citizenship
    • Unlike the Constitution of the USA, the Constitution of India lays down the constitution for the States as well and no state has right to decide its own constitution.
    • The Indian Constitution, unlike the other federal constitutions of the world, introduces single citizenship. It is based upon the idea of ‘one nation one citizenship’. All are citizens of India irrespective of whichever state he/she lives in. The States don’t confer any separate status as a citizen of the State.
  1. Integrated Services
    • The integrated judiciary is a typical feature of Indian federation. Unlike typical federations, in India Supreme Court is the apex court and all other courts are subordinate to it.
    • The States don’t have separate independent courts dealing specially with state matters. Also, the machinery for election, accounts, and audit in India is integrated.
    • The All Indian Services and central services are also considered by many states and critics as anti-federal.
    • However, considering the nature and scope of administration in India, such services are essential as they impart all India character to governance.


  1. Centralised Planning
    • Although economic and social planning is found in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, the Union Government enjoys unbridled authority over national and regional planning in India.
    • NITI Aayog appointed by the Centre, considerable preponderance in legislative power for the Union, the financial dependence of the states on the Centre’s mercy, the administrative inferiority of the states make the states meek and weak.
    • The States only fill the blank spaces meant for in the text for planning. There is no special planning commission for the states in India.


  1. Language Conflicts
    • Diversity in languages in India sometimes causes a blow the federal spirit of the Constitution.
    • There are 22 languages constitutionally approved (eighth schedule) in India. Besides, hundreds of dialects are spoken across the country.
    • Trouble arises when the strongest unit of the federation attempts to force a particular language on others.
    • The tussle for official language in India is still a burning issue. The southern states’ opposition to Hindi as the official language of India has led to deep-seated language crisis in India.


  1. Issue of Religion
    • India is a fine example of religious heterogeneity that sometimes gives rise to turmoil to weaken the federation.
    • But the religious process need not be always divisive. So long as there is a reasonable tolerance on the part of the people and a genuine secular policy on the part of the government, religion may not cause imbalances in a federation.


  1. Economic Incompatibilities of the units
    • Differences economic standards and relative economic and fiscal incompatibilities among the constituent states also pose a threat to a federation.
    • The forces of imbalances in the field are demands for economic planning and development and for regional economic equality and financial autonomy of states.
    • Demand for a financial equality of a region creates problems in a federation.
    • In India, some states are declared as poor and on the principle of equalization, are getting grants-in-aid. But the dilemma in a federation emerges that if the principle of equalization is adhered to, the national income and the total income growth will suffer.


  1. External forces
    • The tension in the North Eastern States in India is due to the interference of neighbouring countries.
    • China’s claim on some portion of the territory of Arunachal Pradesh on LAC threats the territorial integrity of India.
    • The Tamil issue in Sri Lanka creates disruptive forces in India.
    • The alleged Pak’s hand in Khalistan movement in the past also has a say in weakening the Indian federation.


  • Federalism is the most relevant factor of modern constitutionalism.
  • The core objectives of Indian federalism are unity in diversity, devolution in authority, and decentralization in administration.
  • Through federalism, the State pursues the goal of common welfare in the midst of wide diversity in socio-cultural, economic spheres.
  • Federalism or federal form of government is the most suitable form for a vast and pluralistic country like India.
  • It tries to facilitate the socio-political cooperation between two sets of identities through various structural mechanisms of ‘shared rule’.
  • Because of above reasons, center- state relations and the state autonomy have become the cardinal issues of the Indian federalism.
  • The union government appointed Sarkaria Commission in 1983 to examine and review the working of the Indian Federalism. But many recommendations of this Commission are still to be implemented
  • The Union government also took in a very easy approach some of the recommendations made by this commission.
  • This shows that even though our constitution is said to be federal, but this overemphasis on the power of the federal government makes incapable of dealing effectively with socioeconomic challenges and strengthening national unity.
  • Hence, it is appropriate to restructure and calibrate the Indian Federalism to align it with contemporary realities and make it more effective and promote center – state relation.


  • Initiated in 1969 by 15th Planning Commission based on Gadgil-Mukherjee Formula.
    • Hilly and difficult terrain;
    • Low population density or sizeable share of tribal population;
    • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries;
    • Economic and infrastructural backwardness;
    • Non-viability of state finances


  • Equal representation to states in RS – Recommended by Punchhi commission
  • Delineation of appointment and removal procedures for Governor.
  • Making Inter-State council as permanent institution.
  • Implementing Sarkaria commission (1983) recommendations on Centre-State relations-
    • The Commission strongly recommended the establishment of permanent Inter-State Council.
    • Whenever, the Union proposes to undertake Legislation on a subject belonging to the Concurrent List, the States’ views must be ascertained through inter-Governmental Councils.
    • Ordinarily, the Union should occupy only that much field of a concurrent subject on which uniformity of Policy and Action is required in the larger interest of the Nation, leaving the rest of the details for State action,
    • The Governor’s report (In the context of president’s rule – Art 356) must be a ‘speaking document’ and it should be given wide publicity.
    • The Governor should be eminent in some walk of life and from outside the state. He should be a detached figure without intense political links or should not have taken part in politics in recent past. Besides, he should not be a member of the ruling party
    • On receipt of a resolution from a State recommending creation or abolition of a Legislative Council, the same will be presented before the Parliament within a reasonable time.
    • Sarkaria made some observation: “Federalism is more a functional arrangement for cooperative action, than a static institutional concept”.
  • Implementing Second ARC recommendations on Centre-State relations – ARC (1969) made 22 recommendations to improve Centre-State relations. It ruled out any constitutional amendment and considered the existing provisions as sufficient to regulate federal tensions.
    • Establishment of an Inter-state Council under Art. 263 of the constitution
    • Delegation of powers to the maximum extent to the states – financial and legislative among others.
    • Augmenting financial resources of the states through fiscal transfers from the centre
    • Appointment of non-partisan persons having long experience in public life and administration as Governor of a state
    • Residuary field other than that of taxation should be placed on the concurrent list.
    • Differences between the Union and the States should be resolved by mutual consultation.
    • It has taken a favourable view on the demand of the States to provide more financial resources at their disposal.
    • In order to improve Centre-State relations in the country, it has suggested economic liberalization and suitable amendments to the Constitution.