The dynamics of federal (in)stability and negotiated cooperation under single party dominance: Insights from Modi's India

Chanchal Kumar Sharma*, Wilfried Swenden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies have demonstrated a trend towards greater centralization of the federal system in India since 2014. However, the causal mechanisms that underpin this centralization remain underexplored. This article systematically explores the processes involved in tipping the delicate federal balance in favour of greater central control, and in doing so pays particular attention to the role of the party system therein. Our analytical narrative is structured around the assertion that ‘negotiated cooperation’ is contingent upon: (a) the interaction between constitutional structure and federal politics; (b) the capacity and willingness of subnational incumbents to safeguard their policy space and (c) the nature of party organization and the ideological disposition of the polity-wide parties towards territorial power-sharing. Drawing from India’s experience since 1952, we demonstrate that a dominant party system does not necessarily entail encroachment on subnational authority. At the most, it is a necessary but insufficient condition for federal imbalance. However, the problem of federal encroachment arises only when the dominant party is internally centralized and personalized, advocates unitarism and operates in a context of weak constitutional, political, procedural and judicial safeguards for self-and shared-rule. India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, but more recently of Narendra Modi, comes close to meeting these conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalContemporary South Asia
Issue number4
Early online date3 Nov 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2022


  • cooperative federalism
  • fiscal federalism
  • Narendra Modi
  • India
  • party system
  • pandemic


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