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How has Indian Federalism Done?


  • Ashutosh Varshney

    (Ashutosh Varshney is Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences, Department of Political Science and Watson Institute of International Studies, Brown University, Providence, E-mail:


Two tropes have dominated discussions of Indian federalism: fiscal and constitutional. Isolated exceptions aside, scholars have not linked India’s federalism to comparative theories of nationalism, or to a comparative exploration of national identities. To examine how India’s federalism has done, we may also need to ask what kind of nation India is. Once we answer that question, the oft-assumed binary—that the stronger the states are, the weaker the centre will be–loses its edge. Both can be simultaneously strong. The new exception may be the problem of cross-border terrorism, which indeed generates a binary for the new age. Secessionism also creates centre–state binaries, but that may be more on account of how the basic ideational principles of Indian nationhood have been violated, not followed, or about how far the historical process of nation-building penetrated the rebellious regions. Such problems have not been about the basic flaws of Indian federalism.

Suggested Citation

  • Ashutosh Varshney, 2013. "How has Indian Federalism Done?," Studies in Indian Politics, , vol. 1(1), pages 43-63, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:indpol:v:1:y:2013:i:1:p:43-63

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