The project (INR-2013-043) brought together three Indian (Burdwan, Delhi and Hyderabad) and three British universities (Edinburgh, Nottingham and Bristol). The project sought to provide an assessment of continuity and change in Indian federalism in the context of two major events which shaped the dynamics of centre-state relations in India between 1996 and 2014: (1) the liberalization of the Indian economy resulting in the retrenchment of the centre from a number of responsibilities and enabling a stronger input of the states in economic policy-making; (2) the absence of one party government at the centre and its replacement with broad based coalition governments in which polity-wide parties such as the Congress Party or the Bharatiya Janata Party came to rely on the support of small state-based or regionalist parties.
We studied the effect of these changes on (1) the dynamics of intergovernmental relations; (2) the political economy of Indian federalism; in particular territorial finance; (3) the management of ethnic conflict, particularly in the North-East of India. We found that, despite the important changes in the macro-institutional and economic environment, the centre retained a strong supervisory and steering capacity across all the three dimensions of our research. Through fiscal reregulation, the centre even regained some of its capacity in overseeing state borrowing and spending. However, the center has been less successful in its capacity to use its discretionary sources (grants) to bind states (and their electorates). Moreover, state executives and Chief Ministers in particular have increasingly –though not uniformly- engaged in forms of economic ‘paradiplomacy” (foreign policy). Overall, central institutions remain poorly equipped to absorb territorial demands. The channeling of territorial interests through the Planning Commission or its replacement, the NITI Aayog is ad hoc at best and this lack of shared rule also undermines the centre’s ability to deal with the very complex management of ethnic diversity in the North East of India. The project has already generated a number of publications, most notably a recent special issue of India Review. For a list of recent and forthcoming publications, see our dedicated project web-page.