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Federalizing India in the Age of Reforms

Harihar Bhattacharyya

By Louise Tillin
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 1-261, Rs. 850.00


Indian federalism has of late been receiving greater attention from academics, policy makers, and the media within India, but more conspicuously, abroad. The age of treating the States in the Indian federation, condescendingly, as ‘glorified municipalities’ is passé. Since the onset of India’s reforms in the early 1990s, the strategic significance of the States has been acknowledged as the sites of implementing the agenda of reforms including performing many functions necessary for the same as falling within the competence of the States. The perspectives of State creation by way of what is called ‘Reorganization of States’ in India which governed from the 1950s to the 1980s were very different from that of the post-reforms period. Added to the above is the Indian political system’s major shift to coalition government at the federal level more or less coinciding with the onset of reforms. The inability of any ‘national’ party to obtain a majority in Parliament, and the resultant compulsion of dependence on the region based coalition partners has served to re-activate regional and local actors to demand, or renew the demand, for politically redrawing the internal territorial boundaries of India.   Remapping India details the story of the creation of the three new States, Jharkhand out of Bihar, Chattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000 when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was in power in Delhi. Each case has been explained in detail by giving attention to the historical background, the current context, political actors (region based as well as national level parties) including social movements involved in demanding Statehood, and the effects of such exercise in terms of human development. In ‘Introduction’ that has a sub-title, ‘The Compromise Politics of Statehood’, the author has rightly pointed out that ‘unity’ is no longer the issue when considering such institutional change, as was the case previously. She also identifies the distinctive aspects in creating these three States: it took place in the Hindi ‘heartland’; the long denied causes of the aboriginal people (in the case of Jharkhand); and the absence of any mass movement in the case of Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand—the latter claim though is contestable when considered historically; and the context of ‘deeply entrenched caste hierarchies, a faster growing population’ (p. 3) and the relative lack of human development. Her argument is that statehood is a ‘vehicle for ...

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