9th January 2019 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Question – What is electoral federalism? Is it a new achievement for the Indian democracy? Explain.
Context – The Constitutional obligation on the state to implement the laws made by the Parliament, has brought to the fore the fault lines in the Indian federalism.
Why in news?
- The recent political developments around the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) have revealed some of the most significant crevices of Indian federalism.
- Soon after the protests erupted, several State governments declared that they would not implement the law.
What do we understand by federalism?
- Federalism is a type of government in which the power is divided between the national government and other governmental units. It contrasts with a unitary government, in which a central authority holds the power, and a confederation, in which states, for example, are clearly dominant.
What is Indian federalism?
- Indian model of federalism is called quasi-federal system as it contains major features of both a federation and union. It can be better phrased as ‘federation sui generis‘ or federation of its own kind.
- Indian federation was not a product of coming together of states to form the federal union of India. It was rather a conversion of a unitary system into a federal system.
- Article 256 of the Constitution obligates the State government to ensure implementation of the laws made by Parliament. If the State government fails to do so, the Government of India is empowered to give “such directions to a State as may appear… to be necessary”. The refusal to enforce the law even after the Centre issues directions would empower the President to impose President’s Rule in those States under Articles 356 and 365. The Supreme Court of India has also confirmed this reading of the law in R. Bommai v. Union of India — arguably the most significant case on Indian federalism.
- Union of India. S. R. Bommai v. Union of India ( 2 SCR 644 : AIR 1994 SC 1918 : (1994)3 SCC1) was a landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, where the Court discussed at length provisions of Article 356 of the Constitution of India and related issues. This case had a huge impact on Centre-State Relations.
Opposition of states to Central laws and the constitution:
- The Legislative Assembly of Kerala went to the extent of passing a resolution, stating that the law “contradicts the basic values and principles of the Constitution”.
- Though the resolution is only symbolic, and has no legal ramifications. And, though the passage of any such resolution is not constitutionally barred, it may not be in tune with the federal scheme under the
- Another controversy arose in West Bengal, where the State government put anti-CAA advertisements on its websites. In an interim order, the Calcutta High Court directed the State government to remove those advertisements. The question — whether State governments are empowered to use public funds to campaign against a law made by Parliament — is open for final determination. In its final judgment, the High Court could bar the State government from campaigning against a parliamentary law.
- Therefore, neither the refusal to implement nor the official protests registered by State governments carry much legal force.
One party majority at the Centre and the constitution:
- The impact of a single-party dominance on the functioning of our constitutional structure, however, receives little attention. For instance, Parliament, the avowed “temple of democracy”, has been reduced to a site for procedural formalities. At least the Lok Sabha appears to be an extension of the executive, rather than a mechanism for its accountability.
- Time and again, our experiences with single-party dominance have shown that in the face of comfortable majorities, our constitutional structure reveals its tendencies to concentrate power.
- The concentration of power, dormant in the times of coalition governments, comes to the forefront when there is a single-party dominance at the centre.
- It is embedded into the very structure of the Constitution.
- Why? – A ‘Centrist bias’ of the Indian Constitution further augments the powers of the brute national majority because in the backdrop of a bloody partition and threats of “fissiparous tendencies”, it was probably justified for the founders of the Indian republic to be hesitant in instituting a stronger federalism. If we wanted to be together, the argument went, we could only have so much federalism.
- This truncation of the role of Parliament in the face of single-party dominance is further facilitated by the poor understanding of the role of a parliamentary Opposition in Indian politics. The popular understanding is that once the competition for people’s vote is over, it goes, the losers should step aside, respect the democratic mandate, and let the government do its job. The Opposition may question the government like ordinary citizens, or prepare for the next election, but should not meddle in governance. Any such attempt is branded as interference and creating a roadblock.
In this backdrop where we saw that our constitution at more than once is tilted to the unitary side, what is ‘electoral federalism’?
- Over the last couple of years alone, we have seen repeated examples of huge vote swings between national and State elections, separated by only a few months, in the same constituencies. And that too against a dominant national party with unprecedented organisational capabilities.
- These have offered convincing evidence that Indian voters are not only nuanced in their voting choices, but can also reconcile their seemingly contradictory votes in national and State elections.
- In other words, federalism is not a mere legal division of powers; the democracy and voters, too, are becoming federal. This popular embrace of electoral federalism may be one of the most significant achievements of Indian democracy.
- thanks to electoral federalism, the “losers” of national politics can still win State elections and form legitimately elected governments. The State governments are thus filling the Opposition deficit at the Centre. With this shift of Opposition politics from New Delhi to State capitals, the politics of Opposition is likely to become the politics over federalism.
- The conflict that CAA triggered might become a template for future contestations over the federal question, while the politics seem to be ripe for the advancement of federalism.
- It will be interesting to see the future course of developments in Indian federalism.
Note – There is another article on the establishment of a National Defense University. Here are the major highlights:
The National Defense University / Indian Defense University:
- Background – The need for establishing National Defence University was felt for the first time in the sixties. The COSC mooted a proposal in 1967 for setting up a Defence Services University.
- The Kargil Review Committee in 1999, recommended setting up of a Defence University to address the deficiencies in India’s security management system. Based on the recommendations of the GoM, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 23 Jul 01 appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Late Dr. K Subrahmanyam to examine the establishment of the NDU in India (CONDU).
The need for a national defense university:
- While there is certainly a need for classical generalship while orchestrating large forces in conventional battle scenarios, the more immediate challenges rest in the sub-conventional and limited war It is these domains that demand high levels of proficiency and autonomous leadership qualities at the unit, battalion, squadron and brigade levels, with the senior leadership playing primarily a facilitating role. If this is an outcome that India’s military needs to strive for, the path must be shaped by a new kind of education.
- If we are prepared to accept that we are entering a period of momentous change in which the war of networks and ideas is overtaking the established state, we need to take a close look at what propels this warfare… If chaos is the signature of modern warfare, it must be countered with more unpredictability and chaos, something that is alien to structured militaries the world over. Traditional military skills, systematic problem solving and structured thinking have to be supplemented with creatively modified academic and intellectual skills at every level.
- Some of these reflections should strike a chord in India among those within the national security establishment who feel that educational reform is long overdue in the Indian military.
- The process must begin at the top. One of the major responsibilities of the armed forces’ leadership is to crystal gaze into the future and suggest military capabilities and structures that would keep pace with the rapid changes in warfare, geopolitics and technology, and arm the man behind the machine with the necessary skills and intellectual armour required to stay ahead of competitors and adversaries. This is an imperative if India wants to move up the strategic value chain, from being a regional power to a leading power. Of the several attributes that a military leader in India must possess, it is not so much the operational or technological domain that demands special attention, but the intellectual dimension.
- But even though the idea of establishing a NDU was conceived much earlier, the process of its establishment is much slower.
- Though conceived earlier, it gained momentum in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict and was given form over a decade later when it was inaugurated in 2013 with a stone-laying ceremony in Binola, near Delhi.
- There are some who believe that the course structure of the NDU with security studies, technology, leadership and management and distance learning is far too ambitious. Others argue that it is important to think big if India is to emerge as a leading power.
- Whatever be the arguments, the bottom line is that improving the quality of human resource and gaining proficiency in the demands of new forms of warfare must dictate the trajectory of how the NDU comes up.
- Also NDU is the much needed educational reform in the military. It should be made a priority because the trajectories of warfare are changing swiftly across borders.