Cooperative federalism

Cooperative federalism is the concept which reflects the relationship between centre and state where they both come together and resolve the common problems with each other’s’ cooperation.


State of Cooperative Federalism in India


    • Separation of Power: Schedule 7 of Constitution provides strict delineation of powers between center and state. (Except during emergencies which comes under judicial review)
    • Article 131 of the Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases between states and the Centre. Ex: Chhattisgarh moved SC against NIA Act in Jan 2020
    • Coalition governments: It has increased states’ bargaining power.

Political: In relation to the imposition of President’s rule under Article 356 of the Constitution, federalism is far more mature than what it was earlier



  • GST Council: Passing of GST is a shining example of cooperative federalism where States and Centre have ceded their power to tax and come up with a single tax system to realize the dream of one Economic India with ‘One Nation, One Market’.
  • Since 10th FC, state’s share has been continuously increasing till 14th FC by devolving 42%.

Other Areas

  • NITI Aayog: Replacing the erstwhile Planning Commission, the Aayog is promoting bottom-up approach to development planning.
  • Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas involves State’s as equal partners of development. There is a move towards competitive and cooperative federalism.

Challenges to cooperative federalism

  • Several issues such as trust deficit and shrinkage of divisible pools plague Centre-State relations. Together, they make total cooperation difficult.
  • On one hand the Centre has increased the States’ share of the divisible pool but in reality States are getting a lesser share.
  • For instance, as per the 16th FC recommendations, many south states are on the losing side of their share of tax resources.
  • The allocation towards various social welfare schemes has also come down, affecting the States’ health in turn
  • Inter-State water disputes like the Mahadayi issue between Goa and Karnataka, Mahanadi water disputes (Odisha and Chhattisgarh) requires cooperation from all quarters (centre and riparian states).

Strengthening Federalism

  • Strengthening of Inter-State Council: Over the year multiple committees have recommended strengthening of Interstate Council where the concurrent list subjects can be debated and discussed, balancing Centre state powers. There is far less institutional space to settle inter-state frictions therefore a constitutional institution like ISC can be a way forward.
  • Autonomy to states: Centre should form model laws with enough space for states to maneuver. Centre should give enough budgetary support to states so as to avoid budgetary burden. There should be least interference in the state subjects.
  • Democratic Decentralization of administration and strengthening governments at all levels in true spirit. Power should be decentralized based on the principle of subsidiarity.

Practice question

The concept of cooperative federalism has been increasingly emphasized in recent years. Highlight the drawbacks in the existing structure and the extent to which cooperative federalism would answer the shortcomings. (UPSC CSM-2015)