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What is Federalism?

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Federalism is a government system in which powers are split between the central government and its constituent sections, such as states or provinces. It is an institutional system for accommodating two sets of politics, one at the national or central level and the other at the regional or provincial level.

What is Federalism?

What is Federalism?


Federalism refers to the system of government which is a mixture of two types of governments- state government along with state government. In the case of India, federalism refers to the distribution of authority around local, state and national governments.

Federalism at its core is a dual machinery of government functions. One is the central government and the other is the local government, which looks after the day-to-day functioning and activities of their particular region.

Features of Federalism in India

  1. The Constitution established a two-tiered polity, with the Union in the centre and the states on the outside. Each has sovereign rights that they can exercise in the many domains that the Constitution has designated for them.
  2. It establishes the federal and state governments’ structure, organization, authorities, and functions, as well as the parameters within which they must operate. As a result, there are fewer misunderstandings and disagreements between the two.
  3. In the Seventh Schedule, the Constitution divided authorities between the Centre and the states using the Union List, State List, and Concurrent List.
  4. The Constitution is the highest law of the land. The provisions of the Constitution must be followed by the laws issued by the federal government and the states. As a result, at both levels of government, the institutions of government (legislative, executive, and judiciary) must act within the limits set by the Constitution.
  5. The Constitution established an independent judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, to resolve disputes between the Centre and the states or between the states themselves.

Why the Indian Constitution tilts toward the Centre?

  1. The Union List includes the major important issues.
  2. The Centre has complete control over the Concurrent List.
  3. Finally, the Centre has been given residuary powers.
  4. The states of India do not have a right to territorial integrity. Any state’s size, boundaries, and name can be modified unilaterally by Parliament.
  5. Parliament can unilaterally change the majority of the Constitution, either by simple majority or by special majority. In addition, only the Centre has the power to begin a constitutional change.
  6. During a state of emergency, the central government becomes all-powerful, and the states are completely under the rule of the Centre. It transforms the federal structure into a unitary structure without requiring a formal modification to the Constitution.
  7. If the Rajya Sabha passes a resolution in the national interest, the Parliament has the authority to legislate on any issue on the State List. This indicates that the legislative authority of Parliament can be enlarged without changing the Constitution.
  8. The governor has the power to put some types of legislation passed by the state legislature on hold until the President approves them. Not only in the first instance but also in the second, the President has the ability to refuse to sign such measures.

Strengthening Federalism

  1. Several committees have advocated strengthening the Interstate Council, where concurrent list items can be debated and discussed, balancing Centre-state authorities. Because there is significantly less institutional room to resolve inter-state frictions, a constitutional institution like the ISC may be a viable option.
  2. The central government should draught model legislation that provides room for states to wiggle. To avoid budgetary burdens, the Centre should provide adequate budgetary support to states. The state subjects should be subjected to the least amount of intervention.
  3. Democratic true decentralization of administration and strengthening of governments at all levels. Power should be decentralized in accordance with the subsidiarity concept.

The presence or absence of federal flexibility has a significant impact on democracy. The Union government should devote resources to enabling efficient consultation with states as part of the legislative process. It is vital to create a system in which citizens and states are considered partners rather than subjects.

FAQs on Federalism

Question 1: Define federalism.


Federalism is a form of government in which power is split between a central authority and the country’s constituent entities.

Question 2: What is the unitary system of government?


There is only one level of government under a unitary system, or the sub­units are subject to the central authority.

Question 3: State any one feature that makes India a federal country.


The Union Government and the State Governments are given different legislative powers under the Constitution. It is divided into three lists: the Union list, the State list, and the Concurrent list.

Question 4: Which government can make law on subjects included in the concurrent list?


The Union and state governments can both pass legislation on the items in the concurrent list.

Question 5: State one advantage of the formation of linguistic states.


The development of linguistic states has strengthened the country’s unity. It has also simplified administration.

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Last Updated : 24 Mar, 2023
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