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Explaining Politics: India

Explaining Politics: India

India is the seventh largest economy in the world and is the world’s largest democracy, with 1.2 billion people and over 840 million people eligible to vote. As India continues to develop socially, economically and politically and form its position on the world stage, its politics should be looked into in depth to understand the inner workings of the country and find its source of success. Its political system shares several parallels to Britain’s system, a legacy of its colonial past.

India's Political Structure

The country is a federal republic, which is governed under a parliamentary system. India has 29 states and 7 union territories, which include places like Lakshadweep and Chandigarh. It has two houses in its parliament: the lower house, known as the Lok Sabha (much like the British House of Commons) and the Rajya Sabha, or Upper House. The Lok Sabha consists of 552 members, of which 530 members are from the Indian states, up to 20 members from the 7 union territories and 2 members from the Anglo-Indian community that are nominated by the President. Each Lok Sabha lasts for five years in a general election, with the next one due to be held in 2019. The Rajya Sabha has 250 members, 12 of which are nominated by the President, with the other 238 members being elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures. Members are voted in every six years and is not affected by dissolution, unlike the Lok Sabha. These two houses form the Legislative branch, who are responsible for making and voting on laws that govern India. Both houses share these powers, apart from the case of money which is controlled by the larger Lok Sabha. If there is a conflict in deciding certain legislation, the Lok Sabha will usually prevail.

Political Parties in India

India has two types of political party: National and State. National parties are only considered National if they are recognised in at least 4 states and be the ruling or opposing party in those states. The two main parties in India are the Indian National Congress (usually just referred to as Congress) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Congress are seen as traditionally left-wing, promoting socialism and a mixed, planned economy, whereas the BJP are traditionally right-wing, conservative and preaches traditional socio-religious cultural values. Congress is seen as the major dominating party, with it dominating the Lok Sabha since India’s independence in 1947. It has only lost to opposing parties temporarily thrice, but the 2014 election proved to be a disaster for Congress, with the BJP’s stunning victory gaining of 282 seats.

India's Judiciary

The Indian Supreme Court is the highest judicial authority in India, dealing with civil, constitutional and criminal cases. As with many countries, the Judiciary is independent of the government so as to avoid favouritism. The President is the one who appoints judges to the Supreme Court. The head of the executive branch is the President of India who is also the head of state. Though the role is mainly ceremonial, the President (who is currently Ram Nath Kovind at the time of writing) does have the power to declare a state of emergency, extending the Lok Sabha’s five-year term, as well as return a Parliamentary bill for reconsideration and as mentioned before, nominate certain members in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister – Narendra Modi – is the head of the government. He is appointed by the President based on the nomination by the majority party in the Lok Sabha – in this case, the BJP.

Elections in India

The next election is due to take place in 2019. With recent state elections proving to be a huge loss for the BJP, it seems that Congress and other opposition parties are currently benefiting from a backlash of the recent five years facing the BJP. Whether Congress is able to take back control of both houses remains to be seen.


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