Book review: Mahendra Prasad Singh, Federalism in India

AuthorHimanshu Roy
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterBook Reviews
Book Reviews
Mahendra Prasad Singh,
Federalism in India
. Delhi: SAGE, 2022,
294 pp., `1,295.
Federalism in India emerged in its quasi-form with the Government of India Act,
1935, an Act that was enacted during colonial rule. The demand for it had begun
in 1887 with the formation of regional business chambers in different linguistic
regions of India, such as Bengal National Chambers of Commerce and Industry,
Calcutta; South Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Madras, etc. The
leaders of these business chambers used to meet the Congress leaders during the
annual Congress sessions every year. Their discussions, finally, bore fruit when in
1916 Congress accepted, in principle, to have a federal polity in India when it
came to power. It further accepted, in 1920, to have linguistic provinces as a
premise of federalism in India.
In the Constituent Assembly, which was framing the Constitution for an
independent India, the Congress reneged its pledge of linguistic provinces. As a
result, when a federal polity emerged in 1950 under the Constitution, it was not
reorganised on the principle of the linguistic provinces, which resulted in massive
protests against the government. The government constituted a State Reorganisation
Commission to look into the issue that partly recommended the formation of
linguistic states. The reorganisation did not remain conned to the linguistic
principle; rather other factors were also taken into account such as ethnicity/tribe
and religion. It resulted in the creation of new states in the North-East and making
Punjab a Sikh-majority state. The linguistic principle itself was challenged when
Andhra Pradesh, the rst linguistic state, was broken into two to create a new state
of Telangana. The Acts of the governments, thus, have been changing as per the
politics of the day. What is more important about federalism in India is power—
scal and administrative—that the Centre commands to regulate the functioning of
the State. The recurring demand of the federal business chambers (FICCI) to grant
nancial scal powers to the Centre resulted in the making of a strong Centre, which
was to facilitate the development of capitalism through centralised decisions. The
post-colonial developments reect this trend; while the linguistic and non-linguistic
States take care of the democratic aspirations of the citizens through the method of
elections, using political parties, caste and religious associations, the Centre uses its
powers to regulate the functioning of the States. In the past seventy-ve years, many
of the powers of the States have gradually shifted to the Centre under the requirement
of global institutions. One such example is the domain of laws on the environment,
Indian Journal of Public
69(1) 241–248, 2023
© 2022 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561221120940

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