Some of our readers who read our posts [1, 2] about Jaswant Singh's expulsion from the BJP asked us to clarify what exactly we mean by 'federalism'. So here goes.
India is a union of linguistic states. These states are, even to this day, ruled with a very strong central government. The states themselves have hardly any power, and the central government keeps key portfolios which should ideally be kept by the state governments. This makes India a pseudo-federal country. We argue that India should become a true federal country with the central government retaining only federal portfolios such as defense and giving up all other powers (such as education) completely to the states.
This concept of India as a federal country of linguistic states is relatively new, and certainly not the 'loose federation option' which Jinnah, Nehru and others had before them. In those days, it was only the Muslim League which pressed for as much powers as a 'federal state' warrants - with other heads of state such as the Maharaja of Mysore simply giving up their powers to the Government of India in exchange for money (called 'Privy Purse'). Of course, there were states such as Hyderabad which had to be annexed to India in a military operation. It is therefore right to say that the federation talked about then was a federation of states carved out either on the basis of religion or on the basis of existing power divisions between different kingdoms. However, the federation we're talking about now - and the only federation which makes sense for a secular country such as India - is a federation of states based on language.
The Congress in those days was against any sort of federation - even the sort we're talking about here - because it was their belief that a strongly centralized polity is necessary for India's unity and integrity (apparently Gandhi himself wasn't opposed to federalism). The BJP, of course, remains against any federation because of their ideology that recognizing diversity is encouraging disunity - a flawed concept. They'd rather bury the diversity and spread the wrong word among the literate and illiterate that all languages of India have Sanskrit for their mother - utter nonsense and conforming to blatant reality avoidance.
The point we'd like our readers to take away from the whole Jaswant Singh episode is this: irrespective of the type of federation, the fact is that both the BJP and Congress have a strongly centralized polity in their DNA. For their own reasons, both want all the power to be concentrated in New Delhi - and that is a serious mistake.
While both BJP and Congress think that concentration of power at New Delhi is a means of ensuring India's unity and integrity, it is high time both come around to question that assumption - because such concentration of power is resulting in a destruction of diversity - which threatens to destroy unity itself. Also, India's pseudo-federal system is coming in the way of the development of the states, and we can't turn a deaf ear to the fact that underdeveloped states have a greater 'ability' to fight amongst themselves and cause a threat to India's unity and integrity. Developed states, on the other hand, behave like adults and have a greater ability to maintain peace, unity and integrity in India.