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Why is the Indian constitution unique? - Part II

Continued from here 
The consolidation the territorial boundaries was only half the job done – what was in the hands of the provisional government in 1947-49 was just a kingdom and not a Nation. The forging of a nation from this kingdom required visionary wisdom and unflinching determination to principle of ‘multi-cultural’ nationalism.

Operationally, the issue of sub-nationalities was resolved by instituting a pseudo-federal governance system. ‘Pseudo’ because unlike an ideal federal system, the ‘union’ or whole was not made up of the smaller ‘states’.

Upholding the original territories (some of them governed by Royalties) and ‘combining’ them to form the nation would have been disastrous.

It would have meant allowing each state to have its own territorial borders, and a deluge of pacts and negotiations to freeze them – which would have broken down time and again, sinking the region into perpetual strife.

Instead, the first step was, to consolidate all military power with the Union and entrusting it with protection of the borders with neighbouring countries. In effect this meant that the sub-nationalities that composed India had to give up their ‘sovereignty’ in favour of a ‘shared sovereignty’ of the Union.

Notably, ‘shared sovereignty’ would be an oxymoron as per Jean Bodin, yet was the only way to maintain (minority) rights for each sub-nationality, while continuing to forge a single nation out of them.

The next step was designing a constitution that would allow peoples to maintain their communities and yet not create a ‘divide’ between them. One of the systemic features introduced by the constitution was the clerical task of dividing responsibilities between the ‘State governments’ and the ‘Union government’.

This mundane looking step was a leap towards providing ‘cultural’ security to different sections and subsections while keeping the territorial tendencies of the communities at bay. So while a state could decide what language students would learn within their boundaries - they could not decide ‘what’ those boundaries would be.

The division of responsibilities was done very astutely leaving all functions of a ‘Civil Society’ to local governments and awarding all territorial responsibilities not only for the national borders but even state borders to the Union as a whole.

Foreign Relations and Military Development thus automatically became a Union subject ruling out possibility any foreign intervention in deciding intra-union territorial disputes.

Another major quirk of the Indian system was that the Union government was elected directly by the people and thus was in not affected by the ‘loyalties’ or allegiances of the ‘state governments’ towards it.
This averted all possibilities of allowing a ‘state’ to rebel against the Union because even the people of the state had voted to bring about the government against whom the rebellion would be directed. Article 360 which empowers the Union Government to dismiss a State Government is the explicit manifestation of these principles.

While this all might seem too obvious, it was not so and a living example of the failure to invent and implement such careful systemic balances, is the neighbouring country of Pakistan.

Given that Pakistan was created on the basis of the two-nation theory, there was no way any other cultural subsections could be accepted in the Pakistani polity. Since Pakistan was now ‘one’ nation – how could it have many others within itself? The nonchalant acceptance of the two-nation theory resulted in Pakistan continuing to remain a kingdom which could never forge into becoming a nation.

Coming back to the Indian constitution – it delivered satisfactory results for the people. People were now guaranteed a peaceful existence wherein they could practice their own culture and customs – while not harming the others’.

The Federal system has today matured with the intermingling of the peoples – so that now you have Tamilians of Delhi, Marathis of MP, Saurashtrians of Karnataka and Marwadis of Bengal, Punjabis of Assam - all practicing their customs irrespective of their locations - but voting for state governments in their respective states and for the Union government as a whole.

What this effectively means is that the sub-nationalities that the different ‘states’ originally represented, have now been deconstructed and converted into cultural communities, which not only can coexist in the same space, also intermingle and create new sub-cultures .
They are fast approaching a stage where they will no more need territorial boundaries for their fortification; as a result every state is fast becoming a microcosm of the Union itself and India is fast becoming a nation of many minorities and a single majority – a majority of multiculturalists.

The nature of the Union too has been transformed. Coalition politics has brought upon the regional political parties getting a stake in the Union ministries. It is notable here that a similar arrangement - where ministers are apportioned in accord with party strengths in the assembly rather than the ‘winner-take-all’ approach - has been formally adopted in Northern Ireland as a part of the Good Friday accord with the Irish republic.

This is one scenario where the Indian constitution did not invent a systemic change but did provide a strong base for its voluntary evolution.

[There have been however, lapses in proper implementation of the constitution at some places which have led to many problems like the resurgence of casteist and communal mafia, remnants of territorial struggles. But these must be seen strictly as failures in implementation than design of the system.]


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