Killing federalism

A country of over 1 billion diverse people cannot be governed from New Delhi alone, or indeed under a ‘tyranny’ of the majority – decentralised administration is the surest path to progress and development.

One reason for the rise of regional parties is perception or reality of insufficient representation of a state’s interests at the Union level. Unlike the United States Senate, India’s Rajya Sabha is not consitituted to give equal weight to all constituent states – large states continue to wield greater power just like in the Lok Sabha. This itself suggests the uncertain priority given to federalism by the constitution’s founding fathers. But as Kuldip Nayar argues, the recent waiver of residency requirements for a Rajya Sabha seat is a mockery of the entire concept of federalism.

Some 75 members, roughly one-third, retire this year from the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of 250. For the first time, the state assemblies will elect members without the residential qualification. When the Constitution was framed, it was made obligatory that only those people who were normally a resident of that state would be returned to the Rajya Sabha. The amendment passed last year dropped the domicile condition, making the election of anyone from anywhere possible.[Kuldip Nayar/Indian Express]

Already the dangers of population based proportional representation is creating a sad irony: progressive states that have been able to check overpopulation tend to lose seats in the national parliament. This gives a state no incentive to tackle the very real problem of overpopulation. Major political parties colluded in the move to pervert the institution of the Rajya Sabha. In doing so, they have may have created yet another component of a centrifugal force that can threaten national unity.

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