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States - Politics vs the Centre

In the 1950s and early 1960s the foundation of federalism was laid under Jawaharlal Nehru. It was also a period of Congress dominance over the centre as well as the States. Except on the issue of formation of new States, the relations between the center and the States remained quite normal during this period.

Since 1967 most state legislatures have come under the control of parties in opposition to the majority in Parliament, and governors have frequently acted as agents of the ruling party in New Delhi. This resulted in demands for greater powers and greater autonomy to the States. In fact, these demands were a direct fallout of the fact that different parties were ruling at the center and in many States. So, the State governments were protesting against what they saw as unnecessary interference in their governments by the Congress government at the center. The Congress too, was not very comfortable with the idea of dealing with governments led by opposition parties.

After 1967 many States had non-Congress governments and the Congress was in power at the centre. The center often used this provision to dismiss State governments or used the office of the Governor to prevent the majority party or coalition from assuming office. For instance, the central government removed elected governments in Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in the decade of 1980s.

Increasingly, governors were appointed more for their loyalty to the prime minister than for their distinguished achievements and discretion. The politicization of gubernatorial appointments had become such a widespread practice that in 1989, shortly after the National Front government replaced the Congress (I) government, Prime Minister V.P. Singh (1989-90) asked eighteen governors to resign so that he could replace them with his own choices. Governors not only attempt to keep opposition state governments in line, but also, while keeping the state bureaucracy in place, have exercised their government and Politics power to dismiss the chief minister and his or her council of ministers.

Since the 1990s, Congress dominance largely ended and India entered an era of coalition politics especially at the center. In the States too, different parties, both national and regional, have come to power. This has resulted in a greater say for the States, a respect for diversity and the beginning of a more mature federalism. Thus, it was in this third phase that the issue of autonomy became very potent politically.

More than 12 years after Manmohan Singh began his first term as Prime Minister, under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Congress lost six states. The 131-year-old party directly governed about 190 million Indians, or 15% of the population, down from 270 million, or a quarter of the population, in 2004. From controlling 13 states in 2004, the Congress is now down to one large state, Karnataka, another large state as smallest coalition partner, Bihar, and six smaller states—three from the North East: Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya; two from the north, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand; and the Union territory of Puducherry. By 2016 the BJP governed 12 states with 520 million Indians, or 43% of the population, up from 216 million (21%) in 2004. BJP- and Congress-ruled states include those states where both parties are part of a coalition government. For the BJP, that includes Andhra Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab; for the Congress, Bihar.

Radhika Saraf wrote May 20, 2013 "... the so-called affluent belt from Himachal Pradesh through Punjab, Haryana and UP in the north, and a chunk of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra in the south, in Chandigarh, the most affluent state in terms of ownership, this is true for only 28.6 per cent of households. In contrast, a poverty belt starts from the tribal belt of North-West India, which includes the Central India Tribal Belt, parts of Bihar, Orissa and the North-East. Moreover, inequality is rising both between and within affluent and poor states, for instance, in Maharashtra and Bihar."

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Page last modified: 23-02-2017 17:46:22 ZULU