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Politics of India takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of India is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. 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 social secular democratic republic;" the largest state 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.

Executive branch

The 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.

Real national executive power is centered in the Council of Ministers (cabinet), 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. This point should be kept in mind when reading about "decisions by the President", including such statements in this article.

For most of its independent history, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress (INC). 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.

Legislative branch

India's bicameral parliament (also known as the Sansad) consists of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Lok Sabha.

The legislatures of the states and union territories elect 238 members to the Rajya Sabha, and the president appoints another 12, who are experts in science or the arts. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha serve 6-year terms, with one-third up for election every 2 years. The Lok Sabha consists of 545 members; 543 are directly elected, while the other two are appointed by the President from among the Anglo-Indian community. The term of the Lok Sabha is five years.

India has 28 states and 7 union territories. States have their own elected governments, where as Union Territories are governed by an administrator appointed by the union (federal) government. 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 governments in India have less autonomy than their counterparts in the United States. Some states are trying to revitalize the traditional village councils, or panchayat systems, which aim to promote popular democratic participation at the village level, where much of the population still lives.

Political parties and elections

Template:Elect On 22 May, 2004, Manmohan Singh was appointed the Prime Minister of India following the surprise victory of the INC in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. 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. This process has been underway throughout much of the past decade and is likely to continue in the future.

The relationship between the INC led government in New Delhi and the various states has not always been free of rancor. A severely skewed allocation of resources between the states over a prolonged period since independence has created serious regional disparities between various states. As a result, some states such as Orissa, Bihar and Assam have been called neglected states.



Judicial branch

India's independent judicial system began under the British, and its concepts and procedures resemble those of Anglo-Saxon countries. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and 25 other justices, all appointed by the president on the advice of the Chief Justice of India. In the 1960s India moved away from using juries for most trials, finding them to be corrupt and ineffective, instead almost all trials are conducted by judges.

India has not joined the International Criminal Court.

IndiaMap2
Map of India [1].

Foreign relations

Since independence, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a lead in the 1950s in advocating the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia. During the Cold War, India tried to maintain its neutrality and was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India's relationship with the Soviet Union warmed at the expense of ties with the United States and continued to remain so till the end of the Cold War. India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program despite criticism and military sanctions. Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened India's relations with United States, China and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations of South America, Asia and Africa. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the ASEAN, SAARC and the WTO. India has been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 Indian military and police personnel having served in 35 UN peace keeping operations over four continents [2].

Criticism

Many acts by ruling parties, as increase the number of seats reserved for backward classes, or promising free electricity have been found to be desperate acts to garner a vote from the layman. Although India is showing a very high economic growth, over 45% of its population is below the poverty threshold.

Government run hospitals and schools are for the poorest of the poor. They are often lacking in infrastructure and maintenance.

Another criticism mounted upon it is that although the constitution states that the Executive cannot influence the Judiciary, the Judicial system is heavily inclined towards it, as it is the Executive that appoints them. Many of the powers of the Government are misused.

The judicial system in the India is considered to be very slow by international standards. The normal amount of time a case takes to be solved in India is ten years. And sometimes it even goes up to thirty years, or more. Given the backlog of cases in the courts, people often turn to out-of-court settlements.

References

  1. The black line is the boundary as recognised by the government of India. The northern region of Kashmir is currently administered by India, Pakistan, and China (and coloured in as such). The delimiting of the three administered regions is not the international boundary but a ceasefire line demarcated in red. The boundary separating India and Pakistan is known as the Line of Control, that separating India and China as the 'Line of Actual Control'. Most of the state of Arunachal Pradesh is still claimed by China.
  2. India and the United Nations. Retrieved on April 22, 2006.
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