Bangalore International Centre had arranged a panel discussion on “Cooperative Federalism - From Rhetoric to Reality” in collaboration with Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi and Indian Institute for Human Settlement, Bengaluru on Wednesday, 2nd December, 2015 at 6.00 PM at its Auditorium. Panelists present were Dr. M Govinda Rao, Mr. Nandan Nilekani and Ms. Srijoni Sen. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Arghya Sengupta.
In a comprehensive and wide-ranging discussion, the eminent panelists explored the various facets of our Constitution, more particularly the relationship between the federal government and the state governments. It was emphasized that the recent developments under which the state governments and the federal government are not necessarily on the same wave-length, the concept of cooperative federalism assumes crucial significance.
Our written constitution, as the panelists explored in great detail, is a hybrid experiment in which the structure contains both unitary and federal features. This had its relevance at a time when the dominant line of political and economic thinking was in favour of the notion of preserving the unity and integrity of the nation, planned economic development, regulation of industry in a stressed economy and when there was a single-party domination, both in the Parliament and the State Legislatures.
However, circumstances have changed and the thinkings have changed also. It is in this context the panelists explored the somewhat fuzzy concept of Cooperative Federalism which features in many parts of our constitution. The consensus of opinion was that Cooperative Federalism can only work in a structure where the federating units are incentivized to cooperate with each other to work out individualized solutions in situations of conflict, keeping the broad normative framework in mind.
The large appreciative and knowledgeable audience had no reason to disagree with this consensus.