Comparative Discussion on American and Indian Federalism
In comparison with the unitary political system, federalism can be regarded as the most successful one for the new governments because it provides the territories of states with regional autonomy. Political structures of the Unites States and India are based on federalism, making both of them democratic countries. In 1789, America proclaimed its constitution, and thus became a Federal Republic State. In contrast to this, India obtained its sovereignty and democracy only in 1950. In this respect, one can find certain similarities and differences of the federalist systems in both countries. Moreover, it is of first priority to investigate what the United States, as well as Indian government can learn from each other’s politic system in order to improve their federalism. At the same time, examining the public sentiment in each country regarding the current status of the State-Federal relationship is of crucial importance. Although, the political systems of the Unites States and India are based on federalism, they have many similarities and differences between them.
One can notice some similarities between the federalist systems of India and the Unites States. They involve: written constitution, guarantees of the fundamental rights, supremacy of federal governments, separation of powers and labor, and powers of checks and balances. Thus, the constitutions of both countries are written documents, which have promoted the establishment of the federal political structure, as well as functioning of federal governments. The American and Indian constitutions do guarantee to the inhabitants of the countries fundamental rights, such as equality, freedom, including freedom of religion and culture, right to vote, right to property, and many others. In the United States, the above mentioned rights are presented in The Bill of Rights (Ostrom, 1994, p. 42). In India, articles of constitution from 14 to 34 in Part III ensure the basic rights of its citizens (Laskar, 2015, p. 87). Moreover, in both countries, federal governments, specifically Federal Government and Union Government in accordance, are at the center of the political structure. In the United States, 50 states accepted the idea of federal government and happily acceded to it (Ostrom, 1994, p. 51). In India, 29 states and 8 territories of the Union joined the federal government (Laskar, 2015, p. 115). It should be noted that, neither in America, not in India, states nave no power to secede from the federal government. Furthermore, the constitutions of both countries follow the division of labor, specifically separate the power into three branches: executive (governs the country), legislature (legislates laws), and judiciary (manages justice). In the United States, president is the principal ruler of the executive power, whereas in India, the Prime Minister and, headed by him, the Union cabinet, can be regarded as the main executive authority. In addition, the two countries possess a bicameral legislature and well-organized judiciary. Both, the United States and India, created a system, namely powers of checks and balances, in order to prevent the growth of any one of these three powers.
On the contrary, there are certain differences between the political systems of the two countries. In fact, federalism of the United States is very strong and powerful. While in America federalism is firmer and stricter, in India, the political system is rather unitary than federal. Moreover, India can be regarded as quasi-federal state. In this respect, American constitution is both brief and concrete, whereas Indian main state document consists of numerous parts and articles, making it very voluminous (Laskar, 2015, p. 103). Indian constitution can be easily amended (starting from 1950, it has been done 94 times), while the constitution of the United States is more formal and amendments are rarely carried out (only 27 times since its promulgation) (Ostrom, 1994, p. 102). In America, the states have their own constitutions, which regulate the government on specific territories. All of them are officially associated with the Federal Government, adhering the norms and principles of a Federal Constitution. On the contrary, In India, all the states are officially attached to the Indian Union, having no own constitution. At the same time, American form of government is known as the presidential, whereas Indian Union has the parliamentary form. Thus, in the United States, the president is the actual head of the country who governs the democracy. Compared to the United States, Indian presidents is only a nominal head, while the real power is possessed by the Prime Minister and his cabinet (Laskar, 2015, p. 120). Additionally, the legislative, as well as the judicial systems of both countries differ. In India, the lower house has more power, while in America, the upper house displays higher authority. Indian people directly elect the members of the lower house, where they represent their constituencies, in accordance to the population strength. In the United States, the election process is independent from the size of a state or its population. Every American state has two senate members who, in total, produce 100 members (Ostrom, 1994, p. 98). As for the judicial system, it is greatly advanced in America and is quickly developing in India. The dismissal rules of judges also differ. While in the United States, the judge can occupy his position till the late ages, in India, there exist certain norms that specify the age for judge’s retirement.
At the same time, to nominate a candidate for disputing the Presidential election, American political party has to go through the difficult process. However, this system is comparatively simpler than in India. Only a party, which has a larger number of elected members of the Lok Sabha can participate in the processes of election of the Prime Minister and formation of the cabinet. Moreover, the American government follows the bi-party system, whereas India follows a multi-party system. Indeed, the election process in the Indian Union is very complicated. In this respect, the United States government can learn this process of election. I consider Indian complicated system of election to be very beneficial because it allows a great number of different parties to be presented in the government. In fact, Indian multi-party system is more beneficial than the American bi-party because it provides people with more choices and options. Thus, it is a very valid advantage because the electorate wants to have more than two options, concerning the politicians who would make important decisions.
In this regard, Indian government can also learn something from the United States to improve their federal system. In the United States, the President occupies his office for the four years, while in India, the Prime Minister hold his position for five years. Moreover, in the Lok Sabha, a majority of the party, where the Prime Minister has come from, is also very important. Compared to India, the belonging of the President to a specific party is not crucial, as well as success or failure of his party in the elections. Despite this, the president can possess the power for his full tenure. Furthermore, a person can occupy the position of President only for two terms. In India, the post of a Prime Minister or President can be held by one person multiple times. Thus, Indian government can learn the restriction on the terms of presidency. I believe that a person who holds the particular position can be limited by time in order to build the plans and achieve them in short terms. If a person occupies the post of the President or Prime Minister for a long time, new changes and developments would not take place. That is why, it is important to limit the period of one’s government.
Regarding the current status of the State-Federal relationship, the public sentiment in the United States and India differ. In the United States, the favorable public opinion, concerning the federalist system, have decreased over the last decade (Lee & Hyehyun, 2012, p. 492). More and more people view the particular system of government with skepticism. In fact, Democrats with the President in the White House have higher favorable rating than Republicans (Lee & Hyehyun, 2012, p. 492). Americans agree that the federal government has to resolve those things that cannot be resolved at the local level. In India, the public perception of federalism depends on gender, age, and occupation of citizens. According to the study, most respondents preferred federal form of government (Jain, 2014). The majority of Indian people think that the state government should possess more power. Nevertheless, the respondents of the study indicated that they would trust the local self government than the state one (Jain, 2014). Thus, in both countries, the public sentiment matters and is taken into consideration by the authorities. While Americans consider more power for local governments beneficial, Indian people prefer the powerful government.
Therefore, India and America are two countries the political systems of which are based on federalism. Although, both of them have certain differences, as well as similarities concerning political structure of their countries, the United States and India have some beneficial sides of the governing style they can learn from each other to improve their federal systems. The public opinion is also important in both counties. The research of public sentiment in the United States and India shows that the former prefer local governments, while the latter display greater belief in the state government.