Elucidate the major changes India's federal democracy has undergone in last seven decades ?

Despite being low income economy and an extremely diverse country, India has not only survived as a federal democracy but also has proved to be substantial and durable. During the last seven decades, the federal system has undergone various reforms and changes which reflect the dynamism of the Indian federalism. The most important of these are as follows:
(1) Prominent role of states in political system
Over the years, the states in India have successfully made themselves to be heard and to be felt politically as well as economically. The cooperative and competitive federalism are manifestation of this increased role of states in the country.
(2) Transformation of the party system
The era of dominance by one party (Congress) had ended long ago in 1970s. Today, Congress is a national party but its clout has largely been decimated by other political parties. Today, India has an array of national and regional parties and till recently saw two decades of numerous coalition governments with highest bargaining power in the hands of regional parties.
(3) Coalition Governments
After the 1991 elections, no single party could gain required majority in Lok Sabha till 2014 and thus, this period of over two decades saw numerous unstable governments initially and  then one NDA and two successive stable governments under UPA with the support of constellations of regional parties. Due to rise of coalitions, India looked very much like Italy or Israel where small parties can make or break the governments and affect the entire nations. The influence of coalition was seen not only on domestic policy but also on international relations, particularly with neighbors.
(4) India’s turn into a federal market economy
The Globalization-Liberalization-Privatization of early 1990s was marked by a rise in not only private but also public investments. It virtually had replaced the federal planning by market. This period also saw emergence of states as critical actors in the economic reform and growth and transformed India’s federal system.
(5) Change in Role of Central Government as Regulator
The centre’s role transformed from an intervenor to regulator. In tries to enforce fiscal discipline and as we see now, works more in tandem with states towards economic development. Since the emergence of the first coalition government in 1989, the interventionist role of the institutions of centre has waned away.
(7) Social Change
In most parts of India, there is a significant flow of power from upper castes to lower castes and the lowest strata of the society have made an upward movement though still not satisfactory.
(8) Local Self Governance
The constitutional backing of local self governance by 73rd and 74th amendments kick started the process of resurrection and strengthening of Panchayati Raj System and effectively established three third tier of governance in India. Many states delegated the authority and functions and also required funds for effective local governance. However, still there are many issues which don’t allow the operative core of these laws to implement in spirit.
(9) Other changes
In these seven decades, the mostly Unitarian model has changed to co-operative and competitive federalism. The legislative powers of President and Governors have transformed with several amendments but still some critical issues are pending such as ordinance making power and use of article 356. The judicial fiats in the form of PILs and other such instruments has changed the way the executive used to work. The Basic structure doctrine has kept the executive in limit and does not allow it to disturb the basic tenets of the constitution, while it has given unfettered powers to court to intervene in almost everything executive does.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Elucidate the major changes India's federal democracy has undergone in last seven decades ?

Published: March 14, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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