CBSE Class 10 Political Science (Civics) Chapter 2 Notes - Federalism

Federalism Class 10 Notes Political Science (Civics) Chapter 2 - PDF Download

The vertical division of power between various levels of government is one of the main forms of power-sharing in modern democracies. This Class 10 Social Science Political Science Chapter 2 Federalism focuses on that very type of power-sharing. It is usually known as federalism. The chapter starts by explaining federalism in general terms, the principles and methods of federalism in India. The discussion of federal constitutional provisions is followed by a discussion of politics and policies that have reinforced federalism in practice. Our local government, a unique and third level of Indian federalism is also discussed here.

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CBSE Class 10 Political Science (Civics) Chapter 2 Notes - Federalism part-1

Definition of Federalism

What is Federalism?

Federalism is a structure of government in which the power is divided between the central authority and the various provincial units of the country. The federation has two different levels of government. Both these levels of government enjoy their power independently.

  • The first is the government of the whole country, usually responsible for a handful of subjects that are of common national interest.

  • Governments at the provincial or state level on the other hand are responsible for much of the day-to-day administration of their state.

Some of the main characteristics of federalism are:

  • There are two or more tiers of government. The same citizens are governed by different levels of government, but each level has its area of authority on specific matters.

  • The presence and power of each tier of government are promised by the constitution.

  • The fundamental provisions of the Constitution cannot be modified by a single government level. Such amendments require the approval of both levels of government.

  • The Courts have the authority to interpret the constitution and the authority of the various levels of government.

  • Sources of income for each level of government are explicitly stated to ensure its economic independence.

  • The federal structure has two objectives:

  • To secure and promote the unity of the country.

  • To include regional diversity.

What Makes India a Federal Country?

The provisions of the Indian Constitution apply to all the features of the federal system. The Indian Constitution distributes legislative powers between the Government of the Union and the Governments of the State. The division of subjects between them is given below:

  • The Union List: It includes subjects of national importance, such as the defense of the country, foreign affairs, banking, communications, and currency. The Union may, on its own, create laws relating to the subjects referred to in this list.

  • The State List: It contains subjects of provincial and local importance, such as police, trade, trade, agriculture, and irrigation. The Governments of the State may, on their own, create laws relating to the subjects mentioned in this list.

  • The Concurrent list: It includes subjects of common interest to both the Union government and the State government. The list includes education, forest, trade unions, marriage, adoption, and succession. Both the Union and State governments may create laws on the subjects mentioned in this list. If their laws disagree with each other, the law by the Government of the Union shall prevail.

How is Federalism Practised?

The true success of federalism in India is credited to its nature of democratic politics.  Let us look at some of the important ways through which federalism is practiced in India.

Linguistic States

The establishment of linguistic states was perhaps the most important exam for the democratic politics of India. From 1947 to 2017, many original states have disappeared and several new states were formed. Areas, borders, and names of States were changed. Some States were made up of people who speak the same language. These were known as linguistic states.


Language Policy

Language policy was its second test for the Indian Union. Hindi and English were identified as the official languages. Besides them, the Constitution recognizes 21 other languages as Scheduled Languages. States shall also have their official languages and government business shall take place in the official language of the State concerned.


Center-State Relations

Restructuring the relationship between the Center and the State is yet another way in which federalism was strengthened in practice. If no single party has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, major national parties could join forces with other parties, along with several regional parties, to form a coalition in the Centre.


Decentralization in India

When authority is transferred from the central and state governments and granted to local governments, it is called decentralization. The core principle behind the decentralization system is that there are a large number of issues that are best addressed at the local level. Local people also can participate directly in the decision-making process.


A huge step towards decentralization was taken in 1992. The Constitution has been modified to make the third-tier of the democratic system more powerful and effective. These are the main features of this democracy:

  • Regular elections of local government bodies are constitutionally mandatory.

  • Seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in the elected bodies and the executive heads of such institutions.

  • At least one-third of all the designations are reserved for women.

  • The State Election Commission in each State holds the panchayat and municipal elections.

  • Governments of the State are required to share some authority and revenue streams with local government bodies. The nature of sharing varies from one State to another.

The local rural government is commonly known as Panchayati Raj. Every village, or group of villages in certain states, has a gram of panchayat. It is a council comprising numerous ward members, often called 'Panch', and a president or 'Sarpanch'. They are elected directly by all adults living in a village or town. Gram Panchayat is the decision-making organ for the whole village.


The Panchayat operates under the supervision and control of the Gram Sabha. All the voters in the village are members of it. It must hold meetings at least two to three times a year to authorize the yearly budget of the gram panchayat and to monitor the performance of the gram panchayat.


When a few Gram Panchayat is grouped, they form Panchayat Samiti or Block or Mandal. The representative of Panchayat Samiti shall be elected by all members of Panchayat in that area.


All the Panchayat Samitis or Mandals in a district together make up the Zilla (district) Parishad. Members of the Lok Sabha district, MLAs of the district, some other representatives of other district-level organs are members of Zilla Parishad.


Just as Gram Panchayat is for rural areas, we also have municipalities for urban areas. Big cities are organized by Municipal Corporations. Both Municipalities and Municipal Corporations are governed by elected bodies made up of representatives of the people. The Municipal Chairperson is the elected head of the Municipality. Such an officer is called the Mayor of the Municipal Corporation.


This current system of local government is the biggest experiment in democracy in any part of the world. The constitutional status of local government has enabled us to deepen the roots of democracy in our country. It has also boosted the representation and voice of women in our democracy.


Did You Know?

  • The 2011 census recorded more than 1,300 distinct languages which people claimed as their mother tongues.

  • Hindi, is the mother tongue of only about 44 percent of Indians and is the most widespread language in India.

  • Although the constitution did not use the word federation, the Indian Union is founded on the principles of federalism.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Describe India as a Federal Nation.

Answer: India is a federal state. But the word "federation" is never mentioned in the constitution once. Instead, what is mentioned is that India is a "Union of States." Many experts also believe India is a quasi-federal country. It means that it is a federal state with certain characteristics of a unitary government.


The constitution of India has effectively established a federal state of government. We have various levels of government, the government in the center, which is the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Then there are the various state governments, the Vidhan Sabhas and the Vidhan Parishad. And finally, there are the Municipal Corporations and the Panchayats, which are forms of local governance.

2. How are Federations Formed?

Answer: Two factors are essential for the institutions that practice federalism: mutual trust between various levels of government and a consensus to live together. There are two ways primarily through which federations have been formed.

  • The first way involves independent states grouping together on their own to form a larger unit. This kind of "coming together" federation is established in the USA, Switzerland, and Australia.

  • The second way is that a large country chooses to divide its powers between the constituent national government and the states. This kind of 'holding together' federations is implemented in the countries of India, Spain, and Belgium.

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