Centre-State relations and inclusive governance


The concept of Centre-State relations is an assessment of the federal structure of government. The federal structure is designed for governments which have divided the power on territorial basis between the Centre and States. This form of governance circumscribes the concentration of authority under the influences of only one government as the country’s ‘abilities’ get distributed between the Centre and States. Thus, both the centre and the state are limited governments.

The Indian constitution divides the areas of governance of Union and the State into three lists: Union List, State List, and the Concurrent List.

Union list consists of 100 items (previously 97 items) on which the parliament has exclusive power to legislate with including defence, armed forces, arms and ammunition, atomic energy, foreign affairs, war and peace, citizenship, extradition, railways, shipping and navigation, airways, elections, income tax…

State list consists of 61 items (previously 66 items). Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list: maintaining law and order, police forces, healthcare, transport, land policies, electricity in the state, village administration, etc. The state legislature has exclusive power to make laws on these subjects. But in certain circumstances, the parliament can also make laws on subjects mentioned in the State list. Then the parliament has to pass a resolution with a 2/3rd majority that it is expedient to legislate on this state list in the national interest.

The concurrent list consists of 52 items. Uniformity is desirable but not essential on items in this list: Marriage and divorce, transfer of property other than agricultural land, education, contracts, bankruptcy and insolvency…

The centre state relation in India is not merely federal rather it is deeply connoted in the party politics of the country. They are seldom in a static equilibrium.

The centre-state relation is deeply dependent on each other and it benefits or adversely affects both equally. The Indian political party system has taken its due course of time to turn around and, in the process, has developed an interdependency between the two. This dependency was initiated, when the India government system shifted from single party governance to coalition governance.

The coalition government system

The first coalition government in India was formed under the Prime Ministership of Morarji Desai which existed from 24 March 1977 to 15 July 1979 headed by the Janata Party. Though, the first successful coalition government in India which completed the whole 5-year term was the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister from 1999-2004.

Before this shift in the political paradigm of India, regional parties were not giving their due importance and hence were often neglected or not heard of. This non-inclusive approach gave the central government the upper hand in the political system and ignored the grievances of regional parties.

This trend saw a transformation with the construction of coalition government and that had increased the assertiveness of regional parties. Such assertions became evident when the NDA government fell as a consequence of the DMK withdrawing its support.

These assertive steps of regional parties had compelled the national leaders to pay their due and inculcate them in decision making. This trend has now become a trait of federal governance in the country.

Pitching for a “Team India attitude” to progress the country further ahead, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that it is high time that the Centre and states sink differences and worked together.

Can this inclusive environment be formed without the prejudices or superiority?

More so isn’t it high time that we realise that the Centre is no different from the state when it comes to the welfare of the society? If not so, then should we not just blindly follow the federal system of the Indian Constitution rather than making it an issue of regional and national parties?