Cooperative Federalism: How do we achieve that!
Cooperative federalism is a concept that the new Union government is publicizing, as way to solve most of the issues of development in national interests. Simply, the concept advocates robust state governments focusing on growth, which would add on to the growth of the country. The idea is that, stronger the States in the federal structure the stronger will be the Center. So, cooperative federal partners would help build the nation.
However, the growth of the States in itself depends on the cooperative growth sharing of the local self-governments, that is the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI). So the thread of the cooperative federalism starts from the lowest level of PRI i.e gram sabhas at village or conglomerate of villages to Union government. Hence, the dream of Prime Minister, Mr Modi, cannot fructify unless the dream trickles down to the last straw of the federal system.
A million rupee question is ‘How do we achieve that!’ How can the central government assure effective governance at the last level of government?
This is what are the bane and the boon of the federal structure! Even if the Union government is non-serious or non-performer, the States can grow at great speed if the government at State is effective and efficient. At the same time, all the great ideas of Union government may go begging if the States do not cooperate. The arm-twisting mechanism adopted by the Union is through sanctioning of grants. With further devolution of funds to the States by the current government, the Union has somehow promised to promote better State governance. However, to what extent the States will be able to carry the spirit down the line to all levels of local self-government, and at the same time they themselves keep up with expected pace of the Union government, will determine the success of the drafted story of ‘Collective Federalism’.
The worst part of the Indian political system has been the poor responsibility and accountability of the representatives of the people. The only possible way to ensure accountability is when politicians are put on trial during elections. And, it is very common remark, coming from across the board, from majority of electorates, that one contestant is no better than the other. Which means that they are flock of the same feather. At the need of the hour, when some unethical and malafide practice is unearthed, most of them (political leaders), cutting across the political parties, scratch each other’s back and protect the perpetrator from any harm. Which is why prosecuting politicians for their misdeeds, for breaching the trust and faith of the electorates, is far cry. NOTA was one chance to show the mirror to unethical politicians, but that too turned out to be ‘no threat’ for lack of any teeth. It became a mockery of an experiment rather than being a challenging experiment to reform electoral process.
So, the system of cooperative federalism, which is largely dependent on the strong political leadership at all levels, will succeed only if the system of responsibility and accountability is put in order. The bureaucracy, which has become a ‘committed bureaucracy’ of the political masters than that of the law of the land, will have to be shaken out of their submissive mode and oriented to deliver according to the spirit of policy and demand of the beneficiary. The beneficiary who most of the time remains embedded only in the papers of policy and lost in all practical purpose of deliverance and implementation has to be brought into the fold of policy-implementation-evaluation (PIE) network. Once if it is worked out, we can sit and watch the wonders of hyperbole-‘Cooperative Federalism.