The name “federalism” comes from the Latin word Foedus, which means “accord” or “treaty.” As a result, a federation is a political structure created by a treaty or agreement between the various units. It is a political organization concept or ideology that combines the principles of centralization, non-centralization, and power-sharing. In a country like India, ties between the Centre and the States, as well as between the States and Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies, should be guided by the spirit of cooperative federalism. 


Kingdoms or empires have dominated the Indian subcontinent by a federal policy of non-intervention in local matters from the ancient period. Because the natural diversities of the people of the subcontinent were so enormous, they could only be constituted a part of a unified empire if no or very little attempt was made to impose a common set of practices and beliefs. The centralized tendencies of rulers like Jahangir and Aurangzeb contributed to the further dissolution of the Mauryas and Mughals. Furthermore, following the Revolt of 1857, when the British opted to withdraw interventionist policies such as the Doctrine of Lapse and the ban on the use of greased cartridges of animal fat, they were only following an age-old pattern of government. The Regulating Act of 1773, which established a system in which the British Government supervised the East India Company’s activities but did not acquire authority for itself, sowed the seeds of cooperative federalism. By envisaging a dual form of governance known as “dyarchy,” the Government of India Act 1919 provided for a federal India, albeit a flimsy one. The same goal was being pursued by the Government of India Act, 1935. 

Indian Constitution

Sardar Patel, a powerful leader at the time of the adoption of the Constitution in 1950, was a strong supporter of the federal system and played a key role in the drafting of a federal constitution. The horizontal relationship between the union and the states is known as cooperative federalism, and it demonstrates that neither is above the other. The Indian constitution includes measures to ensure collaboration between the center and the states, which is vital for the country’s proper development. As a result, there are only a few provisions in the Indian constitution that portray the core relationship between state and center.  The notion of subsidiarity is used to distinguish between central, state, and concurrent lists. The center has retained residuary power. Article 249[5] empowers the parliament to make decisions on matters that fall under state jurisdiction if the resolution is approved by a two-thirds majority in the state council. 

Challenges faced by Cooperative Federalism 

The increasing issues that face federalism in the twenty-first century have increased the necessity for cooperative federalism, making its practice as a form of government even more essential. Connectivity and accessibility, both physical and electronic, have greatly improved as a result of technological advancements. Climate change, for example, is a worldwide environmental concern that transcends national borders. Pollution and conservation challenges highlight the uneasy friction that exists between the decision-making processes of governments at the national, state and local levels. Globalization has emphasized the importance of inter-and intra-state agreements on geographical, climatic, environmental, and technical diversity in order to integrate with global processes for viable and sustainable development and growth. What is happening on a global scale is also being felt on a local scale. Because the globe has become a global village, the country’s internal security and political issues are vulnerable to outside interference. Individual states can now engage in bilateral negotiations with the union, circumventing the ineffectual institutionalized structures of collective policy drafting, giving our federalism a platform for negotiation. However, this should be taken with a grain of salt, as power-sharing among states at the national level has failed to reduce regionalists’ and sub-regional parties’ localism, parochialism, and chauvinism. Increased negotiating power will only improve cooperative federalism if the alleged disadvantages of centralism are addressed. The federal structure’s political and social fabric has been vitiated by rising voices of autonomy and secession. States are increasingly feeling deprived and alienated, and they have begun to view all problems through a limited parochial lens. Furthermore, their strategy is growing more violent and confrontational. Terrorism, militancy, organized crime, the problem of internally displaced persons, and refugees are all issues that require the country as a whole to join together, and institutional structures under state governments to assist the center by pooling knowledge and resources. The need to come together now is not just a result of the new issues that the country is facing, but it will also act as an antidote to avoid similar challenges from occurring again in the future. Because of its intrinsic resilience and malleability, cooperative federalism alone strengthens the nation from within, allowing it to survive adversities and obstacles.


The relationship between the center, the states, and the local levels is important to India’s concept of nationhood and is a prerequisite for the country’s progress. It does, however, have a strong political undercurrent. Every center-state and inter-state conflict is, at its core, a political conflict. The difficult nature of center-state interactions stems from this. A quarrel of this nature develops into an economic one over time. Poor politics inevitably leads to poor economics. Integration and unity in the federal structure will not be full unless economic stagnation and imbalanced regional growth are addressed. The issue of safeguarding our nationhood through constructive cooperative federalism, which necessitates the participation of both the federal and state governments, must be addressed by both the federal and state governments. India is a fascinating blending pot of cultures. The same must be treasured and valued. There is no better way to do this than through cooperative federalism. People from various states sink or swim together, and that success and salvation are found in invention, not division; mutuality, not conflict; cooperation, not rivalry, in the long term.

This article is written by Vanshika Samir,  a first-year student at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab. 



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