Politics of India

Overview

India is the largest democracy in the world.  What this means is that this country has the largest number of eligible voters, not to mention the most political parties taking part in an election.  Although the country may seem like a “functional anarchy” at times, Indians are justifiably proud of their country’s strong democratic character.  Except for a brief two year period of Emergency rule between 1975-1977 when civil rights were almost dismissed, Indians have never flirted with any other form of government or military rule.  Elections are passionate times and while cynics abound, millions of Indians enthusiastically exercise their constitutional privilege and dutifully make it to the polling stations to cast their ballots.  The remnants of the British Raj include a Westminster-styled system of government with a bicameral legislature and the provision of a titular head of state as well as a head of government.  

Federal and State Governments

Indian politics are governed by the constitution which proclaims the President as the Head of the Executive of the Union. Real executive power, however, rests with the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.  The Parliament is the legislative branch of the government and is divided into two houses – the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) with nominated members and the Lower House (Lok Sabha or House of the People) with elected members.  Like the US, India is divided into a number of states (28 to be exact) and while these states are administered by their own individual governments, the Federal government still has authority over them.  Each state is governed by a Chief Minister who is the real head of the Executive, while the Governor assumes mostly titular responsibilities. 

Political Parties

The Indian National Congress played a pivotal role in the country’s freedom struggle and continued to dominate Indian politics for over four decades post independence.  These days, however, single party rule is a thing of the past and the earlier two party dominated election system has given way to dozens of parties, most of them based on regional, linguistic, and religious affiliations.  Elections are characterized by desperate horse trading – when politicians in need of the magic number to form a government woo members of other parties to join their ranks.  These raggle taggle coalitions of parties can include numerous members, and although they may not seem like the ideal way to run a country, they seem to be the only viable option for a nation of over one billion diverse peoples.


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