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Politics and Government

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India is the world’s most populous democracy. A parliamentary republic with a multi-party system, it has seven recognized national parties, including the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties. The Congress is considered centre-left in Indian political culture, and the BJP right-wing. For most of the period between 1950-when India first became a republic-and the late 1980s, the congress held a majority in the parliament. Since then, however, it has increasingly shared the political stage with the BJP as well as with powerful regional parties which have often forced the creation of multi-party coalitions at the centre.  

In the Republic of India’s first three general elections, in 1951, 1957, and 1962, the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress won easy victories. On Nehru’s death in 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri briefly became prime minister; he was succeeded, after his own unexpected death in 1966, by Indira Gandhi, who went on to lead the congress to election victories in 1967 and 1971. Following public discontent with the state of emergency she declared in 1975, the Congress was voted out of power in 1977; then- new Janata Party, which had opposed the emergency, was voted in. Its government lasted just over three years. Voted back into power in 1980, the Congress saw a change in leadership in 1984, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated; she was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi, who won an easy victory in the general elections later that year. The Congress was voted out again in 1989 when a National Front coalition, led  by the newly formed Janata Dal in alliance with the Left Front, won the elections; that government too proved relatively short-lived, lasting just under two years. Elections were held again in 1991; no party won an absolute majority. The Congress, as the largest single party, was able to form a minority government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao.

A two-year period of political turmoil followed the general election of 1996. Several short-lived alliances shared power at the centre. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996; it was followed by two comparatively long-lasting United Front coalitions, which depended on external support. In 1998, the BJP was able to form a successful coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the NDA became the first non-Congress, coalition government to complete a five- year term. In the 2004 Indian general elections, again no party won an absolute majority, but the congress emerged as the largest single party, forming another successful coalition: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It had the support of left-leaning parties and MPs who opposed the BJP. The UPA returned to power in the 2009 general election with increased numbers, and it no longer required external support from India’s communist parties. That year, Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957 and 1962 to be re-elected to a consecutive five-year term. In the 2014 general election, the BJP became the first political party since 1984 to win a majority and govern without the support of other parties. The Prime Minister of India is Narendra Modi, who was formely Chief Minister of Gujarat. On 20 July 2017, Ram Nath Kovind was elected India’s 14th President and took the oath of office on 25 July 2017.  

 

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Government

India is a federation with a parliamentary system governed under the Constitution of India, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, in which “majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law”. Federalism in India defines the power distribution between the union, or Central, government and the states. The government abides by constitutional checks and balances. The Constitution of India, which came into effect on 26 January 1950, states in its preamble that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India’s form of government, traditionally described as “quasi-federal” with a strong centre and weak states, has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic, and social changes.

The Union government comprises three branches.

  • Executive : The President of India is the head of state and is elected directly by a national by a national electoral college for a five-tear term. The Prime Minister of India is the head of government and exercises most executive power. Appointed by the president, the prime minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of parliament. The executive branch of the Indian government consist of the president, the vice-president, and the Council of Ministers-the cabinet being its executive committee-headed by the prime minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of one of the houses of parliament. In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature; the prime minister and his council are directly responsible to the lower house of the parliament.
  • Legislative : The legislature of India is the bicameral parliament. It operates under a Westminster-style parliamentary system and comprises the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (“Council of States”) and the lower called the Lok Sabha (“House of the People”). The Rajya Sabha is a permanent body that has 245 members who serve in staggered six- year’s terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in numbers proportional to their state’s share of the national population. All but two of the Lok Sabha’s 545 members are directly elected by popular vote; they represent individual constituencies via five-years terms. The remaining two members are nominated by the president from among the Anlgo-Indian community, in case the president decides that they are not adequately represented.
  • Judicial : India has a unitary three-tier independent judiciary that comprises the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, 24 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the centre; it has appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts. It has the power both to declare the law and to strike down union or state laws which contravene the constitution, as well as to invalidate any government action it deems unconstitutional.

 

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                                           National symbols

Flag Tiranga (Tricolour)
Emblem Sarnath Lion Capital
Language None
Anthem Jana Gana Mana
Song Vande Mataram
Currency (Indian rupee)
Calendar Saka
Animal Tiger (land) River dolphin (aquatic)
Bird Indian peafowl
Flower Lotus
Fruit Mango
Tree Banyan
River Ganga
Game Not declared

 

 

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