Federalism is a form of governance which revolves around power sharing between a general government at the centre (federal' government) with regional governments (provincial, state, cantonal, territorial or other sub-unit governments) in a single political system. And the tennets of this power sharing is usually outlined in the constitution. The different tiers govern the same people but each has their own jurisdiction in specific matters of legislation, taxation, and administration as mandated by the constitution. The Indian Union has a federal government. It originally was two- tier system with a Central Government and the State Governments. Later a third -tier was added for rural areas and is known as ‘Panchayati Raj’. These different tiers have separate jurisdiction as mandated by the Indian Constitution. The following points portray how democratic politics has enabled the practice of successful federalism in India.
a) By organizing Linguistic States: The creation of Linguistic States was the first and a major test for democratic politics in our country. This was done to ensure that people who spoke the same language lived in the same State. Some States were created on the basis of language but to recognize differences based on culture, ethnicity or geography. This incident is considered a major test because several national leaders feared that this would ultimately lead to a breakdown of democracy in India. But experience has shown that this has led to more unity in the country along with the easier administration.
b) By developing a language policy: A second test for Indian federation is the language policy. Our Constitution did not give the status of national language to any one language. Hindi was identified as the official language. But Hindi is the mother tongue of only about 40 per cent of Indians. Therefore, there were many safeguards to protect other languages. Besides Hindi, there are 21 other languages recognized as Scheduled Languages by the Constitution. States too have their own official languages. This flexibility has allowed harmony to exist in the country although several violent incidents regarding promotion of Hindi as an official language have created problems in recent times.
c) By re-structuring the Centre-State relations: Restructuring the Centre-State relations is one more way in which federalism has been strengthened in practice in India. The constitutional arrangements for sharing power, working in reality depends to a large extent on how the ruling parties and leaders follow these arrangements. Rise of a number of regional parties and establishment of coalition governments led to a new culture of power sharing and respect for the autonomy of the state governments. The Supreme Court also passed judgments that made it difficult for the Central Government to dismiss the views and concerns of any State Government in an arbitrary fashion. Thus, federal power-sharing in India has become more effective than in early years after the Constitution came into force mainly due to Coalitions Government and the backing of the Judiciary.
Despite the Constitutional provisions ensuring the success of federalism in India, it is the nature of democratic politics in India that is the real reason behind the success of federalism in India. The above points demonstrate how the spirit of federalism has been ensured and practised in India, respecting the diversity for which India is famous. Federalism has allowed Indians of various diversity to reside together under the aegis of the Union and made it a shared ideal for all Indians.
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