Rethinking Indian Federalism

10 December 2013
The controversial creation of the new state of Telangana has again put the spotlight on Indian federalism. 
By Amitabh Mattoo 
 
Indian federalism has always been contested by those who view, with understandable scepticism, the overarching constitutional powers that are given to the federal parliament and to the federal government in New Delhi. One great political scientist described India’s constitution as being ‘federal in form but unitary in spirit’, and another critic described India as being only ‘quasi-federal’. The time may have come for India, and Indians, to reflect on and review the federal idea, and to see how a better balance can be struck in centre–state relations. The messy politics of Indian federalism was in full flow last month as the Indian cabinet hurriedly decided to approve the creation of a new state, Telangana, by dividing the state of Andhra Pradesh. Although the demand for a separate state had been longstanding, there was political 
uproar from opponents of the partition. Protests against the decision have continued in Hyderabad—which will be the shared capital of the two states for 10 years, and then become, exclusively, Telangana’s capital.