Monday, July 15, 2024

Is India a Federation or Union?

Dr T H Chowdary

Since some time past leaders and Chief Ministers from  regional parties,  the Sonia Congress   and  the Communist Parties have been  often saying that  the Modi government is  disregarding the “federal” nature of the Indian Republic and  riding rough shod over the  State’s rights.  Not even once are the  words Federation or federal used in any article of the Constitution of our republic. The Republic is referred to as the Union of India.  Articles – 3, 352, 356 and  360  amply convey that the Union government is   above  and superior to  the States  in all  matters of moment . The  great persons who  wrote the constitution especially, Sardar Patel,Dr B R Ambedkar  and Dr Rajendraprasad   were clear that  India   became a victim of  foreign aggressions, conquests and foreign rule  part by part  over a  period of  700 years from  the 11th century.  The first invasion was by sea, from Arabs in AD 626 ,  But that was driven off. The next was long after in AD 1000 by Mohammed Ghazni. Part by part,  India  was  conquered  part by part  over a period of six centuries by various invaders  Arabs, Afghans, Mongols  (Mughals)  and Iranians  and finally by the British.  Therefore  our Constitution makers  wanted  to have a strong Central government    and called the Republic the Union of  States.  Before 1947,India was administered as eleven British Provinces and  over 500 native Indian  Princes’ states like the  Nizam’s , Baroda , Mysore, Bhopal and J&K  etc . None of these  wasan independent state,so that they could  constitute into  a Federation of India. Those administered by governors were called British provinces. The Muslim League and  the princes   had always been  wanting a weak Central government.   The government of India Act 1935  provided   certain amount of  autonomy for the provinces with overriding powers with the British Vice Roy cum Governor General.   The princely states were  overseen by Britan -appointed  Residents supervising the governance  in the princes’territories and reporting to  the Viceroy in Delhi.

2. While speaking in the  Constituent Assembly at the time of   final  adoption of  the Constitution of India Dr B.R Ambedkar made the  following observations  to justify   a strong Central government for the Union of  India.

…… mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On  26th January 1950, India will be an Independent country.  (Cheers) What would happen to her Independence? Will she maintain her Independence or  will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind.  It is not that India was never an Independent country. The point is  that she once lost the Independence she had. Will she lose it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future.  What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her Independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mohammed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Ghori to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Mogul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander, sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of Independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.

Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our Independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever…….”

(Source: The Makers of Indian Constitution – Myth and Reality by Sri Seshrao Chavan)

3. Further,  the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Dr Rajendra Prasad made the  following observation. 

Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered.  That will depend upon the men who administer it.  It is a trite saying that  a country can have only the Government it deserves.  Our Constitution has provisions in it,  which appear to some to be objectionable from one point or another.  We must admit that he  defects are  inherent in the  situation in the  country and the people at large.  If the people who are elected are capable and  men of  character and integrity, they would be able to make the best even of a defective Constitution.  If they are  lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the  country.  After all, a Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing.  It acquires life  because of the  men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of  the  country before them.  There is a fissiparous tendency arising out of  various elements in our life.  We have  communal differences, caste differences, language differences, provincial differences and so forth.  It requires men of strong character, men of vision, men who will not sacrifice the interests of the  country at large for the  sake of smaller groups and  areas and who will rise over the  prejudices which are born of these differences.  We  can  only hope that the country will throw up such men in abundance.   In India today I feel that  the work that confronts us is even more difficult than the  work, which we had when we were engaged in the  struggle.  We did not have then any conflicting claims  to reconcile, no loaves and fishes to distribute no powers to share.  We have all these now, and the  temptations are really great.  We would pray to God that we should have the wisdom and the  strength to rise above them, and to serve the country, which we have succeeded in liberating”.

4. From the perspective of history and  from the  thoughts which guided  our constitution makers  especially Sardar Patel  and  Dr B R Ambedkar,  we can see  that  if  India is to remain  indivisible,  united, integral  and powerful  as a nation  and as a Republic, we have to have a strong Central government. Those  who are wanting,   some  unthinkingly  and some deliberately,  that  the States should be  powerful,   have been  always ill-intentioned.  The Communist Party of India  in a memorandum  to the Cripps Mission in 1942  and  the Cabinet Mission  in 1946  said  that  India should  be divided into 27 countries each with its own language. The  CPI  spoke of   Kashmir as a nation  even.   The Muslim League,  since its founding in 1906 has been wanting,  more stridently  over time that  there should be  a federation of different provinces /states with  a few powers given to the federal government and residuary powers fully vested  in the federating states. The Princes were also of the same opinion.   If these elements  had succeeded in their separatist  intentions,  by now India would have been disintegrated  and many parts would have  been grabbed by Pakistan and China. 

5. With the control of the Indian National Congress  passing into the   hands of the foreign -origin lady since 1998, even this party  which in the  past headed India’s freedom movement and stood for a strong  undivided country is  sympathetic  to the claims of the various regional parties  that India should be a federation  which would mean a very weak Central government.  When the Congress  was nationalist  and not   a property of a foreign -origin person and  her family,  the Union was strengthened   by for eg:  Amending the constitution   to make education   a concurrent subject  which earlier was a state subject.   According to  our Constitution, certain subjects  could be  legislated and administered only by the  Union government ; some by the states and  some by both but if any state legislation differs from that of the  Union,  the  Union’s law prevails. This again shows the  primacy of the Union.

6.  No regional party has shown concern about the  aggressions and subversions  Pakistan and  China as regards internal security by and territorial integrity of India being engineered. Some of these parties are   even agitating for the  re-operationalisation of  the temporary Articles  – 370 and 35A of the constitution in regard to  Jammu and  Kashmir. These parties are also lending support to Muslim organisations’ demand and agitations to repeal the  Citizenship Amendment Act 2020 which does no harm to India’s Muslim citizens.  They want that Muslims  from Pakistan, Bangladesh and  Afghanistan who illegally infiltrate into India  and  plead that they are  persecuted in those  Islamic states shall be given Indian citizenship. Muslims have nearly five score Muslim countries as members of the Organisation  of Islamic Co-operation (OIC).   Why can’t they go to any of these countries which according to Islam  constitute a borderless Umma (community)?  Governments run by regional parties like YSRC in  Andhra Pradesh and  TRS  in Telangana are  distributing  staggering  amounts as “social welfare” naming the  schemes  after themselves. For example : AP’s Chief Minister  transferred over Rs. 41,000 cr in the   first year of his rule; (June 2019 to May 2020). He has announced  pensions to SC, ST, Minority and BC women  in the age group  45 (!) and 60 years.  They are  borrowing  freely.  It is such parties  and Sonia  Congress and the  half a dozen communist parties and their  secular, liberal, progressive, fellow-travelling  intellectuals  who are singing the  “Federation in jeopardy” song.

7. The communist parties and various Muslim parties  have been cherishing a weak Central government for India so that  part by part  can be  ruled by them , ultimately seceding from India.  In the period 1947  to 1951  the communist party  in the Nizam’s  Hyderabad dominion was supporting  the claim of  Nizam of  Hyderabad to be independent of the Indian Union which  the communists characterized as a capitalist  and stooge of Anglo -American imperialism. Their idea was that  their guerrilla armies  could easily defeat the Rajakars and Nizams’ state forces to establish  a communist state  first in the Nizam’s territory and then  expand it  to  cover the whole of India.  Even after  17 Sept 1948  when  the Nizam’s forces   surrendered and the Nizam  acceded to the Indian Union , the communists went on waging a guerrilla war  until 1951 Sept against the Indian government.   It is only on Stalin’s order to a delegation of Indian communists   that  the guerilla war  came to an end in October 1951.

8. With Pakistan and China  bent upon  their  hostility to India  and  both of them  nurturing their fifth columns  in India,  it is  unwise and dangerous for Indians  to think of the Republic of India as  Federation of the states. Ours is a Union,unbreakable  and superior to  every state in terms  of  Articles  – 3, 352, 356 and 360 .   Our States have considerable  freedom and responsibilities  in the  exercise of which they share the wealth nature bestowed  upon this blessed land of Bharat , of millennial civilization and  a culture of universal brother-hood  expressed in the  words, vasudhaia  kutumbakam, (the entire universe is one family)  unlike  other theologies and ideologies which divide humanity into mutually intolerant  believers and non-believers ; exploiters  and  proletariats. 

9.  The Union nature of the  Republic is being fostered and strengthened by physical integration through networks of national  Railways, Highways, Powergrid, telecoms , natural gas and oil and  culturally through national  programs of  music, talks, epics like Ramayana, Mahabharata broadcast over All India Radio and  Door Darshan, uniform educational programs through  Navodaya  and Kendriya Vidyalayas and  Central Board of Secondary Education and  NCERT – developed text books for school education; Indian and National  Institutes of Technology (N.I.Ts; IITs) and Management (IIMs).  Rajya Sabha  (Council of States)  membership  which was restricted to the  residents’ of the respective states  has been made eligible to any Indian from any state .  If a national water grid is  also undertaken to comprise of all interstate  rivers, reservoirs on them and national  canals linking all of them the Union of India will be  further strengthened  enabling  India  to become a  prosperous , powerful, intellectual  and ethical Bharat  to emerge as a Jagatguru once again. 

(The Constitution of India so ably and  sagaciously drafted, debated and adopted by great  statesmen like Dr B R Ambedkar , Dr Rajendra Prsasad, Dr K.M. Munshi describes  India  as a Union and not a Federation. In none of the  395 Article and   12 Schedules of the Constitution   the words  federation or federal is used. Articles – 3,352,356 and 360  amply declare that the Union and not the States are supreme . In the words of  K.M.Munshi , “ the states are  merely subordinate political bodies which  juristically speaking  act as agents of the Union without anyright to  perpetual existence”. Their formation on boundaries depend upon the  will of  the Parliament (Article-3) . Their powers and action under certain circumstances (Articles-  248,249 250, 251 and 252) and in emergencies suspended under part – XVIII.  To court Dr Alladi, “ though the  country and  people may be divided into different states for convenience of administration the country is  one integral whole , its people a single people living  under  single imperium derived from a  single  source”. Articles 248,249,250, 251 &252  make the Parliament of the Union supreme to legislate even on subjects listed  for the States.)


Dr T.H. Chowdary
Dr T.H. Chowdary
Padma Sri Awardee 2017, Director: Center for Telecom Management & Studies, Chairman: Pragna Bharati, Andhra Pradesh, Fellow: Tata Consultancy Services, Former Information Technology, Advisor: Government of Andhra Pradesh, Chairman & Managing Director: Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, Phone: +91(40)27843121 (Res) M: 9849067359, e-mail: [email protected] [email protected]


  1. Folklore has it that King Dahar capitulated to the invader Mohammed bin Qasim and was converted to islam.This is wrong, as King Dahar died on the battlefield. He was born a hindu brahmin of the pushkarnas and died a hindu brahmin – Anil Dahar


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