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States - Governance by the Centre

The structure of state governments is similar to that of the central government. In the executive branch, the governor plays a role analogous to that of the president, and the elected chief minister presides over a council of ministers drawn from the legislature in a manner similar to the prime minister.

Many of the governor's duties are honorific; however, the governor also has considerable power. Like the president, the governor selects who may attempt to form a government; he may also dismiss a state's government and dissolve its legislative assembly. All bills that the state legislature passes must receive the assent of the governor. The governor may return bills other than money bills to the assembly. The governor may also decide to send a bill for consideration to the president, who has the power to promulgate ordinances. The governor may also recommend to the president that President's Rule be invoked. Governors are appointed to office for a five-year term by the president on the advice of the prime minister, and their conduct is supposed to be above politics.

The Governor is not an elected office-holder. Many Governors have been retired military officers or civil servants or politicians. Besides, the Governor is appointed by the central government and therefore, actions of the Governor are often viewed as interference by the Central government in the functioning of the State government. When two different parties are in power at the centre and the State, the role of the Governor becomes even more controversial.

Items generating revenue are under the control of the central government. Thus, the central government has many revenue sources and the States are mostly dependent on the grants and financial assistance from the center. The Union government uses its discretion to give grants and loans to States. This distribution of economic resources is considered lopsided and has led to charges of discrimination against States ruled by an opposition party.

India has an integrated administrative system. The all-India services are common to the entire territory of India and officers chosen for these services serve in the administration of the States. Thus, an IAS officer who becomes the collector or an IPS officer who serves as the Commissioner of Police, are under the control of the central government. States can neither take disciplinary action nor can they remove these officers from service.

The strength of the central government relative to the states is especially apparent in constitutional provisions for central intervention into state jurisdictions. Article 3 of the constitution authorizes Parliament, by a simple majority vote, to establish or eliminate states and union territories or change their boundaries and names. The emergency powers granted to the central government by the constitution enable it, under certain circumstances, to acquire the powers of a unitary state.

The central government can also dismiss a state government through President's Rule. Article 249 of the constitution enables a two-thirds vote of the Rajya Sabha to empower Parliament to pass binding legislation for any of the subjects on the State List. Articles 256 and 257 require states to comply with laws passed by Parliament and with the executive authority of the central government. The articles empower the central government to issue directives instructing states on compliance in these matters. Article 200 also enables a state governor, under certain circumstances, to refuse to give assent to bills passed by the state legislature and instead refer them to the president for review.

The central government exerts control over state governments through the financial resources at its command. The central government distributes taxes and grants-in-aid through the decisions of finance commissions, usually convened every five years as stipulated by Article 275. The central government also distributes substantial grants through its development plans as elaborated by the Planning Commission. The dependence of state governments on grants and disbursements grew throughout the 1980s as states began to run up fiscal deficits and the share of transfers from New Delhi increased. The power and influence of central government finances also can be seen in the substantial funds allocated under the central government's five-year plans to such areas as public health and agriculture that are constitutionally under the State List.

The more common form of executive interference has been the suspension of state legislatures under a variety of pretexts and the implementation of President's Rule. This typically has occurred when opposition parties have captured state legislatures and set in motion policies unfavorable to the prime minister's party. After Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984, her successors engaged in such overt acts of interference less often.



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Page last modified: 23-02-2017 17:46:21 ZULU