Friday, Jul 01, 2022

Is Indian Federalism Reeling Under Burden Of One-Party Dominance?

The road to authoritarianism is paved with manufactured consent, bullied Opposition, money and muscle power. The federal dream now rests upon people’s movements.

Centripetal Vortex
Centripetal Vortex Artwork by Rawindra Kumar Das

In 1947, Kurt Gödel, then at Princeton, raised a serious question about the US constitution. The 20th century’s greatest logician, for whom Albert Einstein said that he went to his office “just to have the privilege of walking home with Kurt Gödel”, claimed to have found a logical inconsistency in the con­stitution that could nul­lify its various provisions. It’s still a mystery what perturbed the genius, but 75 years later, the holy text of the Indian Republic is also faced with some questions, with a sitting chief minis­ter even demanding a “complete review” of the Constitution.

Indian federalism is under strain on several fronts—constitutional, economic, political and electoral—to the extent that Opposition chief ministers have invented the phrase “combative federalism”. The Union government is locked in an unsavoury confrontation with several states; the mutual disdain regularly invites distasteful remarks. Several sta­tes complain of being bullied by the Centre, as the electoral process is bulldozed by the BJP’s powerful machinery. It can buy maximum advertisement space in the media; its top leaders can get their interviews telecast on the day of voting, and electoral bonds help the party bag mammoth donations that undermine the electoral process and democracy.