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Centre for South Asian Studies: Research


Aims and Objectives

The key purpose of this project is to assess and explain the degree of continuity and change in Indian federalism since 1994. 1994 is chosen as a starting point. Following the demise of the Congress-led government at the centre in that year, the United Front government set in motion a period of (minority) coalition government which lasted until the 2014 general elections. 1994 also reflects a second driver of change in centre-state relations, i.e. the consolidation of a set of economic reforms under the Rao government (1991-94) which accelerated the liberalization of the Indian economy, re-oriented the role of the centre in the Indian multi-level polity and strengthened inter-state competition. 

When the project was submitted in 2013, we did not anticipate that the 2014 general election would result in a landslide for the Bharitiya Janata Party, effectively giving the BJP enough seats to control the centre on its own (though through seat-sharing arrangements and the allocation of some cabinet posts post-election, still in coalition with some smaller state-based parties). As such, we will take the opportunity to reflect upon what this momentous change may mean for centre-state relations in India.

Through a set of workshops in the UK (Edinburgh May 2014 and Bristol December 2015) and India (Hyderabad April 2015 and Delhi December 2016) we aim to publish several joint pubilications which look at patterns of continuity and change across four major themes:

1) the nature, character and outcomes of intergovernemntal relations, with a particular emphasis on the so-called shared rule institutions of Indian federalism: the Planning Commission and its replacement with the NITI Aayog; the Rajya Sabha, judicial federalism (through the Supreme Court or inter-state tribunals on water-river disputes for instance), the role of governors and the President and the operation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes;

2) the political economy of Indian federalism, more in particular the effect of liberalization and more widespread party political incongruence in the composition of the central and state governments on inter-state disparities and the extent to which liberalization has been paralleled by central re-regulation; in other words what has been its effect on shifts of power from the centre to the states (or vice versa); 

3) the management of ethnic conflict with a particular focus on the North East of India (especially Bodoland, Assam, Nagaland) as well as the recent formation of the state of Telengana (Andhra Pradesh) and what these processes mean for the past and future trajectory of territorial reorganization and management of the Indian state. 

4) The role of party political dynamics (especially the composition of state governments and how it relates to the compostiion of the central government) is considered as an important factor which influences intergovernmental relations, the role of the states in India's economy and how ethnic conflict is dealt with. However, the dynamics which underpin the constant reshaping of the Indian party system as a multi-level party system deserve explanation and understanding in their own right. In other words, it is not only an independent, but also a dependent variable. Therefore, some network members will look at what explains the rise and fall of small parties across the Indian states and what determines the extent to which some parties may be able to transcend state boundaries whereas other new parties remain confined to a (section of) one or just a few states. 

As the project enters the second half of 2015, we will upload working papers and keep you up to date with network activities and news. Please take the time to navigate the rest of these pages as they will give you more detailed information on each of the network themes, output and activities.






Damaged fishing boat, Telwatte, July 2005