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The Limits of Territorial Arrangements and the Relevance of Consociationalism for India

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Power-Sharing in the Global South

Part of the book series: Federalism and Internal Conflicts ((FEINCO))

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This chapter examines within the appropriate historical context and social-cultural diversity the complex mode of power-sharing among various levels of government—Union, State and Sub-State—all guaranteed by a written constitution (1950) and guarded by the Supreme Court. Legislative, administrative and financial powers have been distributed in terms of Lists (Union, State and Concurrent) on which each tier of government has the powers to legislate and execute. Power-sharing here remains territorial with little scope for non-territorial or ‘consociation method’. This is so despite the presence of very large ethnic minorities such as the Muslims. Power-sharing in India has followed a parliamentary federal mode of governance. The primal factors in both federation-building and power-sharing have been ethno-linguistic and regional identity, and the need for its recognition, accommodation and empowerment. India’s method of power-sharing despite many limitations has served to resolve much of her ethnic conflicts.

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  1. 1.

    The term Bharat is the indigenous name, mythical name for India.

  2. 2.

    Castes still define the social and cultural hierarchies in different regions of India. The State-based dominant castes such as the Kammas and Reddys in Andhra Pardesh, and the Lingayats and Vokkaligas in Karnataka who are economically the most powerful too.

  3. 3.

    See also McCulloch (2014) for the distinction between liberal and corporate consociational settlement in divided societies.

  4. 4.

    On different modes of power-sharing, see Chapter 2 in this Volume.

  5. 5.

    The princely States or kingdoms comprised of about two-thirds of India’s territory and about one-third of its population with greater complexity (Menon, 1956).

  6. 6.

    In the State of Telangana (created in 2014) the Muslims are 13% of the population, but 40% seats in the State Assembly is occupied by the Muslim—a lone best practice.

  7. 7.

    Census reports have added some languages such as Maithili, Rajasthan, etc., to the category of Hindi.

  8. 8.

    In Tamil Nadu, for example, Tamil is the official language, and English is the additional official language. In Kerala, Malayalam and English are the official languages of the State.

  9. 9.

    There is a constitutional body named the Commissioner of Linguistic Minorities which collects data, examines the safeguards and offers recommendations to the concerned State. See Bhattacharyya (2022) for a critical examination of the failures of the States in safeguarding minority languages.

  10. 10.

    Figures in parenthesis indicate years of their formation as States.

  11. 11.

    The recognition of diversity by Nehru like other nationalist leaders of his generation was not based on any detailed understanding of the situation on the ground. A decade later at the Jaipur session of the Congress in 1948, it was admitted that the party’s understanding of the ethno-linguistic situation of India was not on the basis of the concrete reality, which was more complex (see Bhattacharyya, 2019: 85).

  12. 12.

    In 1948 in the Jaipur session of the INC the Congress leadership was found to be self-critical of the fact that India’s social and cultural diversity was more complex than what they had been harping on for decades.

  13. 13.

    I have discussed the institutional developments, in detail, elsewhere (see Bhattacharyya, 2019: 81–93).

  14. 14.

    The SRC (1953–1955)’s linguistic criterion was 50 per cent speakers as the minimum, which left out large linguistic minorities.

  15. 15.

    In the case of Punjab alone religion along with language was considered as the basis of State creation (Nayar 1966).

  16. 16.

    On different forms of power-sharing, see Chapter 2 in this volume.

  17. 17.

    Land and Governanc under the Fifth Schedule’ a joint report by the Ministray of Tribal Affairs and the UNDP (

  18. 18.

    I have carried out a detailed empirical survey of the Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council (unpub. Report submitted to the ICCSR).

  19. 19.

    As part of its election manifesto, the BJP, ruling party at the centre, abolished Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that provided for special autonomy to the State of Jammu & Kashmir, and made two Union Territories of Kashmir, and Jammu, and upgraded Ladhakh to a Union Territory. The abolition of the Statehood status of J & K and its demotion has been subject of many debates in India and abroad. It has also been challenged in the Supreme Court but for no effect since Article 370 was retained in the Constitution as a ‘temporary and special provision’. This is how the Government of India has defended its action. The picture would have been fundamentally different and difficult if there was a provision for minority veto in India’s constitutional democracy.

  20. 20.

    The State of Jharkhand was created in 2000 by bifurcating as a State for the tribals who have long been demanding a State of their own. Ironically, such a State came into being at a time when the tribals comprising many tribes such as the Santhals, Ho, Munda and others were reduced to a minority (about 26 per cent) in the new State. This is another example in India when territorial power-sharing through federalization has failed to empower the concerned groups. See for further details, A. Prakash (2001).


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Bhattacharyya, H. (2024). The Limits of Territorial Arrangements and the Relevance of Consociationalism for India. In: Aboultaif, E.W., Keil, S., McCulloch, A. (eds) Power-Sharing in the Global South. Federalism and Internal Conflicts. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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