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Issues in Centralized Federalism: A Case for Regionalism

8 min read

Ambika Bhardwaj

Published On: December 31, 2021 at 19:19 IST


Countries are found to be following different methods of power sharing. Governments have been categorized into unitary and federal. Unitary government is when the powers are endowed with the central government to make decisions on important affairs of the country and the state or regional governments have to follow up on the same whereas federal government is the one where the power is bifurcated between central and state governments where both of them function and perform their duties independently. Countries like France, Spain, Norway, China and Sweden have adopted the unitary form of government. On the other hand, countries like Australia, Russia, Switzerland and United States have adopted federal form of government. India is a country which is diverse and rich in culture and it has also followed federalism.

The derivation of the word ‘federation’ was from a Latin word called ‘foedus’ which signifies ‘treaty’ or ‘agreement’. So, federation is a state which is created by an agreement or a treaty between different units. These units are called as numerous names. For instance, in Russia, they are known as republics, in US, they are called states whereas in Switzerland, they are known by the name of cantons. A federation can be created through two methods, that is either through integration or disintegration. In integration, the states come together to build a big or a strong unit. It is also known by the name of coming together federations. Switzerland, USA, and Australia are the ones who have taken up this process. While on the contrary, when a bigger unit takes the decision of categorizing the power at two or more levels, it is called disintegration. These levels are central, state and local governments. Holding together federation is the other name for this process. This way of federation has been adopted by Spain, Belgium and India.

According to the father of the Indian constitution, India is referred as the term ‘Union of States to stipulate the following two-

1.The federalism in India is not an outcome of any agreement or treaty signed among the states like the US.

2. The states can not reject the idea of a federation

Regionalism is basically a proclamation of identical nature and aim by individuals within a particular region in which they are unified by language and social culture. According to promoters of regionalism, it helps in building up states that do well in economic, political and cultural spheres. It further assists in making policies that are beneficial for development of the states as well as the nation. In politics, promoters of the regional parties are restricted to the specified region only as they recognize themselves with attributes of the region and parties like the language and culture. Regionalism can be both positive as well as negative. When regionalism aims to promote and strengthen a state by formulating policies that further makes a strong nation. However, it can negative too when there are demands which are secessionist and separatist.

Literature review

1.Source- The Politics of Regionalism in India by Lewis P. Fickett, Jr.

Regionalism is not a contemporary occurrence for India. The phenomenon of regional parties can be observed since the general elections of 1967. Some proved their success and established themselves in the politics while others were found out to be frail and not suitable to exist independently in the politics. The success of a regional party was first seen in 1967 when DMK, also called as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham [1]experienced success and showed that a coherent and organized regional party can function at the state level in our country. After this, Akali Dal rose to the supreme power in the Punjab’s Akali-Jan Sangh coalition government in 1969. This was seen as the other prelude of the regional political parties and regionalism.Some other significant victories of this trend are Bangla Congress in West Bengal and the Bharatiya Kranti Dal (BKD) in Uttar Pradesh. India is not a stranger to diversity and heterogeneity This is what makes regional parties essential for the better functioning of the state.

2. Source- Regional Parties and The Emerging Pattern of Politics in India by Sudha Pai

Growth of regional identities and awareness witnessed a rise in the post-independence era. It is a consequence of numerous objectives, developments and ideas. The inceptive propulsion for the development of regionalism in India was acquired under the British rule from the revival of regional awareness. It was also assisted by the resurgence and development of the languages that are vernacular and are interrelated to the regions which are well-organized in terms of culture and language. Two political groups were observed during the time of the national movement. First one was where people in huge abundance united together (Horizontal) whereas in the second one, an integration of some regions was seen under the linguistic working class (Vertical). There was an unbalanced escalate for the development of regionalism because the colonial administration shaped the regions of the subcontinent in dissimilar ways.

Federal characteristics of the constitution

1.The power is categorized among two levels or tiers of government where each level is given different responsibilities and they are accountable for it. Matters like defence, banking, foreign affairs and currency are handled by the central government whereas the state government deals with affairs of local and state importance like trade, manufacture and public order.

2.The affairs that come under the Union, State and Concurrent list are also bifurcated between the governments of centre and state by the constitution in the seventh schedule. There are ninety-eight subjects under union, fifty-nine under state and fifty-two subjects under concurrent lists. Laws for the matters under the concurrent list can be decided by the centre as well as the state but if there is a disagreement, the law made by the centre is taken into consideration.

3.The laws made by the centre and state should keep up with the constitution as it is the most superior power. If not, the laws can be announced as void by the apex or high court. The constitution of India can not be amended easily and is quite rigid. Only the joint action by the central and state government can amend the constitution and for this a special majority as well as an assent of half of the state legislatures is obligatory.

4. An independent judiciary has been established which is led by the apex or Supreme court to achieve aims; to maintain the dignity and authority of the constitution and to resolve the arguments between the union and the states or between the states. Provisions such as security of term to judges, specified service settings and so on are there under the constitution to aid for independence of judiciary.

5. A bicameral legislature, that is containing two houses- Upper House and Lower Sabha have been bestowed by the constitution. The Upper House is known as Rajya Sabha and speak for the states whereas the Lower House is called Lok Sabha and depicts the India and its people as whole.

Centre-State Relations

Agreement and balance between both of them is an essential for the federal structure of the nation. For instance, Article 245 to 255 in part twelve of the Indian constitution is concerned about the legislative relations of the centre and state. Decision on extent of territories is one of them which states that laws for the entire or a territory or area of India can be made by the centre whereas the state government form laws for the entire or a specific region of the state. A three-fold distinction of the legislative subjects is provided for the centre and states. The centre-state relations are observed through three heads which are Legislative, Administrative and Financial relations.

Indian Federalism becoming Centralized

Indian federalism is inspired from the Canadian federation which is giving more powers to the centre rather than establishing a model where both centre as well as state have equal say in decisions to make on the existing affairs and this is in contrary with the federal attributes of the Indian constitution. That is why India is illustrated as ‘quasi-federal’ by KC Wheare. According to him, India is actually a unitary state instead of a federal one due to the subsidiary federal characteristics. The two main reasons that are accountable for the increment of unitary bias are the supremacy of the centre in the pecuniary domain and the advent of former planning commission which regulated the development procedure in the states.[2]

The centre can assert its authority and power over the states in the following manner-

Certain bills signed by the state legislature can be put on hold by the governor for the review by the President and has the right of absolute veto over it. Some bills on the subjects cited in the state list can be initiated in the state legislature only with President’s authorization. During a financial emergency, a state can be ordered to reserve financial and money bills which has been passed by the state legislature for President’s assent.

Article 365 states that if state fails to act in accordance with the centre or hinders its power and circumstances have emerged in which the state government cannot comply with the provisions of the Indian constitution, in this situation, President’s rule can be imposed in the state.


It can be concluded that there are certain provisions that give immense power and authority to the centre over state which hinders the federalism and make it centralized. Few instances have been observed when the government at the centre has misused their power and dismissed the state government because the opposition party was ruling over there. The prevalence of centre’s decision on any dispute or dissent between the centre and state is also why India is facing centralised federalism.

For regionalism, numerous positive instances have been spotted for its development. Regionalism can aid in making state better policies. But excessive regionalism like separatism, secessionism and demand for full statehood can hinder the development of our country.

The need of the hour is to have a perfect balance between the centre and state and empowering the states which will further help in strengthening the nation.

Edited by: Tanvi Mahajan, Publisher, Law Insider


Lewis P. Fickett, Jr. “The Politics of Regionalism in India.” Pacific Affairs, University of British Columbia (1971).

Laxmikanth, M. indian polity . n.d.

Ghosh Ambar “The Paradox of ‘Centralised Federalism’: An Analysis of the Challenges to India’s Federal Design” (2020)


  1. (Lewis P. Fickett 193)
  2. (Laxmikanth)