Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] The Indian Constitution’s unitary tilt


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not much.

Mains level: Paper 2-The Constitution in favour of strong Centre


The Centre-State conflict over CAA, and the Constitutional obligation on the state to implement the laws made by the Parliament, has once again brought to the fore the fault lines in the Indian federalism.

The opposition of the States to the Central law

  • Several state governments have declared that they would not implement the CAA.
  • Legislative Assembly of Kerala passed the resolution stating that the law contradicts the basic values.
  • The resolution is only symbolic.
  • Passage of such a resolution is not constitutionally barred.
  • But it may not be in tune with the federal scheme under the Constitution.

What are the obligations on the States?

  • Article 256 obligates the State governments to ensure the implementation of the laws made by Parliament.
  • The Centre may give such direction as may appear to be necessary to ensure compliance with the laws made by Parliament.
  • The refusal to enforce the law even after the Centre issues direction would empower the President to impose the President’s Rule in the State.
  • Neither the refusal to implement not the official protests registered by the States carry much legal force.
  • The Calcutta High Court directed the state government to remove anti-CAA advertisements from the website.
  • The High Court barred the state from campaigning against a parliamentary law.

The diminishing role of the Opposition

  • The parliament has been reduced to a site for procedural formalities.
  • There is a poor understanding of the role of the parliamentary Opposition in Indian politics.
  • Once the elections are over the Opposition is expected not to meddle in the governance.
  • The absence of Leader of Opposition in the Parliament for the last 6 years manifests this attitude.
  • Further, in the absence of the Opposition showing any resilience, national politics seems to be operating without a credible political check.

The unitary tilt of the Constitution

  • Single-party dominance at the Centre has always revealed the tendency of our Constitution to concentrate the power.
  • The concentration of power is embedded in the very structure of the Constitution.
  • A ‘centrist bias’ of the Constitution further augments the power of single-party dominance.
  • Against the backdrop of the fissiparous tendencies in the backdrop of partition, it was justified for the founders to be hesitant in favour of stronger federalism.

The rise of Electoral federalism

  • Change in voting patterns.
  • Over the last couple of years, there is huge vote swings between national and State elections in the same constituencies and separated by only a few months.
  • In other words, federalism is not a mere legal division of power, the democracy and voters too are becoming federal.
  • This embrace of electoral federalism may be one of the most significant achievements of Indian democracy.
  • Hence, parties that lose in national elections can still win State elections and form governments.
  • The State governments are thus filling the opposition deficit at the Centre.
  • This shift of opposition from Delhi to State capitals 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.


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