The aim of federalism is to give effect to both these sentiments. It is in this context that Dicey defined a Federation as a political contrivance intended to reconcile national unity and power with the maintenance of State rights.
Or to express it in the words of Wheare, the group of States or communities “must desire to be united, but not to be unitary.” But this is not all. Something more is needed. There should not be the desire to have a Federation, but the power or ability to operate it as well as to maintain it.
The States or communities desiring to have a Federation, explains Wheare, “must have the capacities to work the system they desire. Federal government is not appropriate unless the communities concerned have the capacity as well as the desire to form an independent general government and to form independent regional governments.” The factors which determine their desire or aspirations as well as their capacities to make them operative ideals may be called the prerequisites of a federal polity. It may, however, be noted that it is unlikely that all these factors will be present among States desiring union, but it is necessary that most of them must be present if the federal system is to work smoothly and efficiently. One of the main incentives to closer association is a feeling of homogeneity; what Mill calls mutual sympathies among the population.
“The sympathies available for the purpose,” he says, “are those of race, language, religion, and above all, of political institutions as conducing most to a feeling of identity of political interest.” In his earlier enumeration of the factors making for nationalism, Mill included geographical unity and common memories, that is, a common historical tradition. Obviously, both should appear here. Geographical unity and common historical traditions help to create a sense of oneness even if other factors do not exist.
Mill observes that people may find themselves together in resistance to oppression. The Swiss did so and they continued to cooperate in spite of the diversity of language and religion, at a time when religion was the grand source of irreconcilable political enmity throughout Europe. Exposed frontiers and the danger of aggression from avaricious neighbours dictate union for the purposes of defence. The greater the menace, the closer will be the union. In Canada the desire to union arose in spite of differences of language, religion and race. And the union of South Africa occurred in spite of similar differences between the Dutch and the English, who inhabited the country.
It will, thus, be clear that strong as the forces of language, race, religion and nationality are in producing a desire for union, such a desire can nonetheless be produced among people who differ in all these particulars, but possess a sentiment of union, that is, a common sentiment that in union lies strength and this strength can be achieved by a political cohesion. The sentiment of unity,” says Gilchrist, “is the index of a common mind.” A great deal, therefore, depends upon the political leadership or statesmanship at the right time, which helps to combat the forces of racial, religious and linguistic differences and instill in the people instead a desire to unite itself. The desire for union in Canada was made effective by the leadership of men like John Macdonald, Alexander Gait and George Etienne. In America the people had a community of language, race and religion and similarity of political institutions, but these factors had failed to produce anything beyond a Confederation. It was under the leadership of Washington, Hamilton, Madison, Jay, Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson that the delegates at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, “with a manly confidence” in their country, threw the Articles of Confederation aside and designed to bring unity into the diversity of the new nation.” But it happened the other way in India.
The Muslim League, under the inspiration of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, had all through relied upon the theory of a separate Muslim nation and the creation of a separate homeland for Muslims. If the separatist tendencies based upon race, religion and language had not been fostered so assiduously by the Muslim leadership, the result would have been a united Indian federation rather than the division of the country into two parts, India and Pakistan. “This factor of leadership, of skill in negotiation and propaganda, can make,” observes Wheare, “all the difference between stagnation and an active desire for union.” The areas having the desire to federate should be geographically contiguous, that is to say, the States desiring to federate, or to be brought within the fold of a federation as a result of centrifugal forces, should not be separated from one another by distant spaces of land and water. They must exist in the vicinity of one another, for neighbourhood makes them a community of interests and the desire for union is inspired by the needs of common defence, common economic advantages, and similarity of institutions. Geographical contiguity also helps to produce the capacity to work a federal union.
A federal government demands of units to run their own administration as well as to participate in the federal government. “Distance leads to carelessness or callousness,” says Gilchrist, “on the part of both central and local governments. National unity is difficult to attain where the people are too far apart.” The benefits of common defence and the economic advantages from union cannot be adequately secured. One of the causes of the success of federalism in America is the continuity of all the States. So are the Cantons of Switzerland, the Provinces of Canada and the States of Australia. The Indian Federation also commands contiguity of its component States. But there was no contiguity of area between the two parts of Pakistan.
West Pakistan was separated from its eastern counterpart by a wide stretch of land. The erstwhile East Pakistan was landlocked by Indian Territory and this separation was, inter alia, one of the causes of the secession of East Pakistan from West Pakistan and the establishment by the former of the new State of Bangladesh. Of all the factors which produce the desire for union, similarity of social institutions and particularly political institutions is the one which is very important, because it produces best the capacity for union. Wheare remarks that the desire for union has practically never been aroused unless similarity of political institutions “was present actually or potentially among those who envisaged the union.” Similarity of institutions creates conditions of common political structure which, in its turn, makes possible the development of a common political culture. It is essentially for this reason that the system of government established at the centre finds its replica in the federating units also. The Constitutions of the United States and Switzerland both require that their respective units must have a republican form of government.
In Canada, Australia and India the parliamentary system of government has been explicitly established in all the units. Not only is it desirable that there should be similarity of political institutions in the federating units, but it is also essential that these institutions should not be autocratic or dictatorial. “For autocracy or dictatorship, either in the general government or in the regional governments, seems certain, sooner or later, to destroy that equality of status and that independence which these governments must enjoy, each in its own sphere, if federal government is to exist at all.” Limited and free government is the most important feature of federalism and the system of government which it establishes must, therefore, ensure free elections and a party system and the existence of an Opposition.
There can be no free elections where there is autocracy and the representatives in the government are the nominees of the autocrats in the regions. Dictatorship is a one party government and it does not permit existence of an Opposition. Elections are just a routine affair wherever dictatorship has existed. This is the negation of free elections and, as such, incompatible with the working of the federal principle. Carl Friedrich says that federalism is an integral part of modern constitutionalism. “A federal government structure,” he explains, “provides a spatial or territorial, as distinguished from a functional division of powers.
Such a division operates as a rather effective restraint upon the abuse of governmental powers by the central authorities.” It would have been difficult to operate a union between the Provinces and Princely States as envisaged in the Government of India Act; 1935. The proposed federation would have been a combination of strange bed-fellows. The Provinces were given, under the Act of 1935, provincial autonomy with representative institutions and a responsible form of government whereas the States were to continue under the personal rule of the Princes. The representatives of the Indian States in the central legislature would have been the nominees of their rulers and not elected representatives of the peoples of the States.
The British Government, in the words of Sir Samuel Hoare, the then Secretary of State for India, had really intended to counterpoise democracy with aristocracy. Before inaugurating the new Constitution of India in 1950, which declares India a Union of States, all the Princely States were liquidated and homogeneous political institutions established in all the component States of the Union. The States Reorganisation Act, 1956, abolished the distinction between Part A, B and C States, which the Constitution had established in 1950. The States Reorganisation Commission aptly remarked that the “only rational approach to the problem, in our opinion, will be that the Indian Union should have primary constituent units having equal status and a uniform relationship with the centre, except where, for any strategic security or other compelling reasons, it is not practicable to integrate any small area with the territories of a full-fledged units.” Similarly, there should be similarity of social institutions generally.
It is true that the desire for union can be created in spite of dissimilarities of social institutions, as happened in the United States and Canada, “but such differences,” says Wheare, “do make a government more difficult, and there is a limit to the degree of dissimilarity which can be permitted. The capacity to work together cannot survive in extreme divergence.” The capacity of States to form and work a federal union, he adds, “depends upon some agreement to differ but not to differ too much.
” A stable federalism demands a considerable capacity to agree in practice upon what is a matter for unity and what is a matter for diversity. It is, accordingly essential that the nature of the diversity and of the unity be such that, in practice, views can be adjusted and the differences reconciled. There should be a common meeting ground upon national policy as well as upon the local liberties of the constituent units. The capacity of States to work a federal union is also greatly influenced by their size. It is desirable that there should be, as far as possible, equality among the component parts of a Federation in their size and population. If there are wide differences in size and population, as in India where the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Padesh, Bihar and Rajasthan are in no comparison with the small states of Punjab, Haryana, Sikkim, Goa and many others, the federating States are not equal partners in a union. Units larger in size and population and more powerful in resources than others may be too proud and domineering for smaller ones. They may even overrule the others and bend the will of the central government to themselves.
The idea of dominance by some creates suspicion and lack of confidence in others. Confidence is the essence of the will to federate and the capacity to work the federal government. The essential prerequisite of a federation, says Mill, is that there “should not be any one State so much more powerful that the rest as to be capable of vying in strength with many of them combined. If there be such a one, and only one, it will insist on being master of the joint deliberations; if there be two, they will be irresistible when they agree and whenever they differ everything will be decided by a struggle for ascendency between the rivals.” It is true that some divergence in size between the units must necessarily be present before a federal union is desired and this is an important factor in the making and maintenance of federal systems today.
But “there must be” succinctly observes Wheare, “some sort of reasonable balance which will ensure that all the units can maintain their independence within the sphere allotted to them and that no one can dominate the others. It must be the task of those who frame and work a federal government to see that no unit shall be too large, and, equally important, none too small.” Equality of the federated units is a key to federal organization.
Finally, the federating States must possess adequate economic resources to support both an independent national government and independent regional governments. A federal government establishes a new national government and it must be given sufficient independent economic resources if it is to perform its duties efficiently and effectively. Likewise, it is also imperative that the regional governments must also be left with adequate economic resources to run their administrations and perform the functions assigned to them satisfactorily without being dependent on the doles of the national government.
If the resources left are not sufficient to support an independent regional government, “then no matter how much states desire a federal union and no matter whether a federal constitution is drawn up, in practice federal government will not be possible. Soon the regional governments will be unable to perform their functions or they will be able to perform them only at the price of financial dependence upon the general government, that is, at the price of financial unification.” One of the reasons for which the leaders in South Africa rejected a federal union was that the country would be unduly taxed if they were required to support both a central government as well as independent regional governments. A federation is an expensive mechanism and it should be adopted only when the constituent units can pay the price of retaining their separate identity and independence of action in the sphere assigned to them.