Politics of India
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Politics in India (Hindi:भारतीय राजनीति) takes place within the framework of a constitution. India is a federal parliamentary democratic republic in which the President of India is head of state and the Prime Minister of India is the head of government. Nominally, executive power is exercised by the president and is independent of the legislature. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Federal and state elections generally take place within a multi-party system, although this is not enshrined in law. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, the highest national court being the Supreme Court of India. India is the world's largest democracy in terms of citizenry.
India is as a nation has been labelled as a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic" which is "egalitarian secular". Like the United States, India has had a federal form of government since it adopted its constitution. 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. The central government has the power to dismiss state governments under specific constitutional clauses or in case no majority party or coalition is able to form a government. The central government can also impose direct federal rule known as president's rule (or central rule). Locally, the Panchayati Raj system has several administrative functions and authorities.
For most of the years since independence, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC). The two largest political parties have been the INC and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Although the two parties have dominated Indian politics, regional parties also exist. 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 due to public discontent with the promulgation of emergency by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. 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.
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. 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. In the 2004 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. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the INC won with a majority of more than 200 seats and formed the government by creating a coalition with other parties which were willing to form alliance with it.
Indian democracy has been suspended once. Nevertheless, Indian politics is often described[by whom?] as chaotic. More than a fifth of parliament members face some criminal charges and around 40 of them are accused with serious criminal charges.
Political parties and long elections
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
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As with 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 representative and which political party should run the government. Through the elections any party may gain simple majority in the lower house. Coalitions are formed by the political parties, in case no single party gains a simple majority in the lower house. Unless a party or a coalition have a majority in the lower house, a government cannot be formed by that party or the coalition.
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 is represented in more than 4 states, it would be labelled a national party. Out of the 66 years of India's independence, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress (INC) for 53 of those years.
The party enjoyed a parliamentary majority save for 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 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.
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 and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's focus on the Dravidian 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 a Hindu nationalist reputation. Such support from particular sections of the population affects the agenda and policies of such parties, and call into question their claims of being universal representatives. The Congress may be viewed as the most secular party with a national agenda. Many political parties are involved in caste-, religion- or language-based politics.
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 like poverty, unemployment, development are main issues that influence politics. Garibi hatao (eradicate poverty) has been a slogan of the Indian National Congress for a long time. The well known Bharatiya Janata Party encourages a free market economy. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) vehemently supports left-wing politics like land-for-all, right to work and strongly opposes neo-liberal policies such as globalization, capitalism and privatization.
Law and order
Terrorism, Naxalism, religious violence and caste-related violence are important issues that affect the political environment of the Indian nation. Stringent anti-terror legislation such as TADA, POTA and MCOCA have received much political attention, both in favour and opposed.
Law and order issues, such as action against organised crime are issues which do not 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, the Washington Times[unreliable source?] reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder".
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- Tawa Lama-Rewal, Stéphanie. "Studying Elections in India: Scientific and Political Debates". South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal, 3, 2009.
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