The most significant development in India’s constitutional history is the consolidation of a parliamentary form of government that broadly corresponds with the Westminster model. What is equally striking is the growth of federalism in India in spite of parliamentary government that, in its classical form, flourished within a unitary system of government. Whereas Britain is identified as a classical model of parliamentary government, the United States is always referred to as an ideal form of federal government. Both these political systems have evolved specific constitutional practices in consonance with their ideological preferences and socio-economic requirements. What largely explains the emergence of specific types of governance in both the United Kingdom and United States is the peculiar historical circumstances in which they emerged as nation-states. In view of a gradual decline of monarchy in Britain, parliament became sovereign, reflecting popular aspirations, articulated through a well-devised system of elective democracy; whereas in the United States the decision of the constituent units to merge for a strong political system led to the rise of a union that held power to sustain the federal arrangement that emerged following the 1787 Philadelphia Conference. This is, however, not to suggest that there is a ‘conflict’ between parliamentary sovereignty and federalism as theoretical categories. Federalism does not necessarily imply ‘divided’ sovereignty, incompatible with the notion of parliamentary supremacy, any more than parliamentary government seeks to establish ‘unfettered’ majority rule. Historically speaking, in framing the Dominion Constitutions (for Australia and Canada) in the early 1900s, ‘parliaments’ were not made ‘supreme’. Instead, it was the Constitution that enjoyed supreme authority, exercised through judicial review (by the Privy Council). This is a common pattern in parliamentary federalism, in which constitutional supremacy is perhaps the most effective device to avoid distortions in majority rule. Historically speaking, Canada was the first federation to incorporate a system of parliamentary responsible government in which the executive and legislature are fused. This combination of a federal and parliamentary system was subsequently adopted in Australia in its 1901 Constitution. The majoritarian character of parliamentary federal institutions has had tremendous impact on the dynamics of federal politics in both Canada and Australia.1 While the former combined federal and parliamentary institutions,

with responsible cabinet government operating at federal and state levels, as a parliamentary federation Australia evolved the institutions and processes of ‘executive federalism’ presumably because of the well-entrenched British heritage of parliamentary institutions and tradition of executive federalism.2 The Constituent Assembly while deliberating on the form of government for independent India was in favour of executive federalism, which they presumed was appropriate for a stable political authority. Owing to radical changes in India’s political texture in recent times, parliamentary federalism has metamorphosed to a significant extent and the growing importance of constituent states in governance at the national level has created conditions for ‘legislative federalism’ suggestive of equal and meaningful representation of the units in federal decision-making. It is therefore possible to articulate the story of India’s parliamentary federalism as a dialectically constructed politico-constitutional scheme to provide meaningful governance in India that is socio-culturally plural and ideologically heterogeneous. There has thus been a clear shift from a predominantly parliamentary government under the Congress dominance to a considerably federalized system under a multi-party system with coalition government since 1989.