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Politics of India take place in a framework of a federal parliamentary multi-party representative democratic republic modeled after the British Westminster System. The Prime Minister of India is the head of government, while the President of India is the formal head of state and holds substantial reserve powers, placing him or her in approximately the same position as the British monarch. Executive power is exercised by the government. Federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Parliament of India. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

According to its constitution, India is a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic." India is the largest state by population with a democratically-elected government. Like the United States, India has a federal form of government, however, the central government in India has greater power in relation to its states, and its central government is patterned after the British parliamentary system. Regarding the former, "the Centre", the national government, can and has dismissed state governments if no majority party or coalition is able to form a government or under specific Constitutional clauses, and can impose direct federal rule known as President's rule. Locally, the Panchayati Raj system has several administrative functions.

For most of the years since independence, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC),[1] Politics in the states have been dominated by several national parties including the INC, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority. The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the corruption of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years.[2] As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed a minority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term.[3] The years 1996–1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term.[4] In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various parties.[5] In the 2009 Lok Sabha Elections, it won again with a surprising majority, the INC itself winning more than 200 seats.

At the federal level, India is the most populous democracy in the world.[6][7] While many neighboring countries witness frequent coups, Indian democracy has been suspended only once.[8] Nevertheless, Indian politics is often described as chaotic. More than a fifth of parliament members face criminal charges[8].

Contents

Central and State Governments

The central government exercises its broad administrative powers in the name of the President, whose duties are largely ceremonial. The president and vice president are elected indirectly for 5-year terms by a special electoral college. The vice president assumes the office of president in case of the death or resignation of the incumbent president.

The constitution designates the governance of India under two branches namely the executive branch and Real national executive power is centered in the Council of Ministers, led by the Prime Minister of India. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. The President then appoints subordinate ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. In reality, the President has no discretion on the question of whom to appoint as Prime Minister except when no political party or coalition of parties gains a majority in the Lok Sabha. Once the Prime Minister has been appointed, the President has no discretion on any other matter whatsoever, including the appointment of ministers. But all Central Government decisions are nominally taken in his name.

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Legislative branch

The constitution designates the Parliament of India as the legislative branch to oversee the operation of the government. India's bicameral parliament consists of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The Council of Ministers is held responsible to the Lok Sabha.

State Government

States in India have their own elected governments, whereas Union Territories are governed by an administrator appointed by the president. Some of the state legislatures are bicameral, patterned after the two houses of the national parliament. The states' chief ministers are responsible to the legislatures in the same way the prime minister is responsible to parliament.

Each state also has a presidentially appointed governor who may assume certain broad powers when directed by the central government. The central government exerts greater control over the union territories than over the States, although some territories have gained more power to administer their own affairs. Local state governments in India have less autonomy compared to their counterparts in the United States and Australia.

Judicial branch

India's independent judicial system began under the British, and its concepts and procedures resemble those of Anglo-Saxon countries. The constitution designates the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the lower courts as the authority to resolve disputes among the people as well as the disputes related to the people and the government. The constitution through its articles relating to the judicial system provides a way to question the laws of the government, if the common man finds the laws as unsuitable for any community in India..

Local governance

On April 24, 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This Act was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight States, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan from 24 December 1996.

The Act aims to provide 3-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States having population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every 5 years, to provide reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women, to appoint State Finance Commission to make recommendations as regards the financial powers of the Panchayats and to constitute District Planning Committee to prepare draft development plan for the district.

Role of political parties


As like any other democracy, political parties represent different sections among the Indian society and regions, and their core values play a major role in the politics of India. Both the executive branch and the legislative branch of the government are run by the representatives of the political parties who have been elected through the elections. Through the electoral process, the people of India choose which majority in the lower house, a government can be formed by that party or the coalition.

Indian state governments led by various political parties as of March 2009.

India has a multi-party system, where there are a number of national as well as regional parties. A regional party may gain a majority and rule a particular state. If a party represents more than 4 states then such parties are considered as national parties. In the 61 years since India's independence, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress (INC) for 48 of those years. The party enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods during the 1970s and late 1980s. This rule was interrupted between 1977 to 1980, when the Janata Party coalition won the election owing to public discontent with the controversial state of emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Dal won elections in 1989, but its government managed to hold on to power for only two years. Between 1996 and 1998, there was a period of political flux with the government being formed first by the right-wing nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followed by a left-leaning United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance with smaller regional parties, and became the first non-INC and coalition government to complete a full five-year term. The 2004 Indian elections saw the INC winning the largest number of seats to form a government leading the United Progressive Alliance, and supported by left-parties and those opposed to the BJP.

On 22 May 2004, Manmohan Singh was appointed the Prime Minister of India following the victory of the INC & the left front in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. The UPA now rules India without the support of the left front. Previously, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken office in October 1999 after a general election in which a BJP-led coalition of 13 parties called the National Democratic Alliance emerged with a majority.

Formation of coalition governments reflects the transition in Indian politics away from the national parties toward smaller, more narrowly-based regional parties. Some regional parties, especially in South India, are deeply aligned to the ideologies of the region unlike the national parties and thus the relationship between the central government and the state government in various states has not always been free of rancor. Disparity between the ideologies of the political parties ruling the centre and the state leads to severely skewed allocation of resources between the states.

Political issues

Social issues

The lack of homogeneity in the Indian population causes division between different sections of the people based on religion, region, language, caste and race. This has led to the rise of political parties with agendas catering to one or a mix of these groups.

Some parties openly profess their focus on a particular group, for example, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's focus on the dravid population, and the Shiv Sena's pro-Marathi agenda. Some other parties claim to be universal in nature, but tend to draw support from particular sections of the population, for example, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (translated as National People's Party) has a vote bank among the Yadav and Muslim population of Bihar and the All India Trinamool Congress does not have any significant support outside West Bengal. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the party with the second largest number of MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha, has an image of being pro-Hindu, and anti-Muslim and anti-Christian. Such support from particular sections of the population affects the agenda and policies of such parties, and refute their claims of being universal representatives. The Congress may be viewed as the most secular party with a national agenda, however it also practices votebank politics to gain the support of minorities, especially Muslims.

The narrow focus and votebank politics of most parties, even in the central government and central legislature, sidelines national issues such as economic welfare and national security. Moreover, internal security is also threatened as incidences of political parties instigating and leading violence between two opposing groups of people is a frequent occurrence.

Economic issues

Economic issues like poverty, unemployment, development are main issues that influence politics. Garibi hatao (eradicate poverty) has been a slogan of the Indian National Congress for long. The Bharatiya Janata Party is seen as a party favourable to businesses and economic development. The Communist Party of India has a left-wing view of economics and is opposed to privatization, globalization and foreign investments. The economic policies of most other parties do not go much further than providing populist subsidies and reservations. As a noteworthy case, the manifesto of the Samajwadi Party, the third largest party in the 15th Lok Sabha, for the 2009 general elections promised to reduce the use of computers upon being elected.

Law and order

Religious violence, terrorism, Naxalism, and caste-related violence are major issues that affect the political scene of India. Stringent anti-terror legislations like TADA, POTA and MCOCA have received much political attention, both in favour as well as criticism.

Law and order issues such as action against organized crime are not issues that affect the outcomes of elections. On the other hand, there is a criminal-politician nexus. Many elected legislators have criminal cases against them. In July 2008 Washington Times reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder".[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Country Profile: India" (PDF). Library of Congress - Federal Research Division. December 2004. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/profiles/India.pdf. Retrieved 2007-06-24.  
  2. ^ Bhambhri, Chandra Prakash (1992). Politics in India 1991-92. Shipra Publications. pp. 118, 143. ISBN 978-8185402178.  
  3. ^ "Narasimha Rao passes away". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/2004/12/24/stories/2004122408870100.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-02.  
  4. ^ Patrick Dunleavy, Rekha Diwakar, Christopher Dunleavy. "The effective space of party competition" (PDF). London School of Economics and Political Science. http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/government/PSPE/pdf/PSPE_WP5_07.pdf. Retrieved 2007-10-01.  
  5. ^ Hermann, Kulke; Dietmar Rothermund (2004). A History of India. Routledge. p. 384. ISBN 978-0415329194.  
  6. ^ "Country profile: India". BBC. 9 January 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/country_profiles/1154019.stm. Retrieved 2007-03-21.  
  7. ^ "World's Largest Democracy to Reach One Billion Persons on Independence Day". United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations: Population Division. http://www.un.org/esa/population/pubsarchive/india/ind1bil.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-06.  
  8. ^ a b A special report on India: The democracy tax is rising: Indian politics is becoming ever more labyrinthine December 11th 2008 The Economist
  9. ^ "With Indian Politics, the Bad Gets Worse". Washington Times. 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/23/AR2008072303390.html.  

Further reading

  • W. Phillips Shively. 2008. Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science—Chapter 14 Example: Parliamentary Government in India" McGraw Hill Higher Education. ISBN 978-0-07-340391-5
  • Leftism in India, 1917-1947; Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, Palgrave, U.K.,2007.
  • Subrata K. Mitra and V.B. Singh. 1999. Democracy and Social Change in India: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the National Electorate. New Delhi: Sage Publications. ISBN 81-7036-809-X (India HB) ISBN 0-7619-9344-4 (U.S. HB).

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