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India Pol

India Pol

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Published by Dr. Vinod Gupta
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Published by: Dr. Vinod Gupta on Mar 15, 2014
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03/15/2014

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Politics of India

Political Institutions & Parties

Republic of India
• A federal republic with a parliamentary system of government • capital: New Delhi

A federal system
• 26 states and 6 centrally administered Union Territories
– 2 states are partially claimed by Pakistan and China

Federal system
• Relatively centralized • federal government controls the most essential government functions
– defense – foreign policy – taxation – public expenditures – economic (industrial) planning

Federal system
• state governments formally control
– agriculture – education – law and order within states – dependent on central government for funds

Federal system
• Balance of power between central and state governments
– varies by time and place – state power was constrained
• during the rule of Nehru and Indira Gandhi

– state governments have more room to maneuver
• when central government is weak • since 1998

Federal system
• considerable center-state conflict when ruling political party in a state is different from national ruling party

Parallel state structure
• Formal political structure of the states parallels that of the national government • national state • President Governor • Prime Minister Chief Minister • Parliament Assembly • Supreme Court High Court

The legislature
• Parliamentary system of government
– the executive authority is responsible to the Parliament

The legislature
• bicameral Parliament
– Rajya Sabha (Council of States) – Lok Sabha (House of the People)

Rajya Sabha (Council of States)
• The Upper House

Upper House
• Rajya Sabha (Council of States) • not more than 250 members
– 12 are nominated by the President of India – the rest are indirectly elected
• by state Legislative Assemblies

• The Council of States can not be dissolved
– members have terms of 6 years – 1/3 members retire at end of every 2nd year

Lok Sabha
• House of the People

Lower House
• Lok Sabha (House of the People) • 545 members
– 2 are appointed by the President of India – the rest are directly elected from singlemember districts

• 5-year terms unless dissolved • Lok Sabha elects its presiding officer
– the Speaker

Lok Sabha
• Elections held at least every 5 years • Prime Minister may call elections earlier • 543 single-member districts of roughly equal population • party nomination • 1st-past-the-post
– winner-take-all

• women’s share

Elections to Lok Sabha
• Vote share of 3 major political parties

Current composition
• • • • • • • 43 parties in the 13th Lok Sabha (1999) 39 parties in the 14th Lok Sabha (2004) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 184 138 Indian National Congress (INC) 109 145 Communist Party of India (M) 34 43 other political parties 218 217 total 545 543

Indian National Congress
• India’s oldest political party
– since 1885

• India’s premier political party
– until 1990s

• in 1960s many regional parties started challenging INC’s monopoly on power

Indian National Congress
• Indira Gandhi
– created a top-down structure – party leaders appoint party officials – some limited party elections

• left-of-center, pro-poor political platform

Indian National Congress
• INC moved toward the ideological center
– Beginning in 1984

• INC today tilts right-of-center
– economic efficiency – business interests – limited government spending

Indian National Congress
• INC has always attracted support from diverse social groups • in the 1990s INC has lost some of its traditional constituencies among the poor and Muslims

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
• The major political party in India today • right-leaning, Hindu-nationalist party
– first major party to mobilize explicitly on the basis of religious identity

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
• better organized than INC
– disciplined party members – carefully selected party cadres – clear and respected authority line within the party

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
• Traditional supporters
– urban, lower-middle-class groups

• base of support widened since mid-1980s
– Hindu nationalism – north-central India – decline of Indian National Congress – Muslims as convenient scapegoat for frustration

BJP’s rapid rise to power
• electoral success from 1989 to 1999
– difficulty in forming alliance with other parties

• break with past traditions
– relatively moderate, centrist position

• BJP formed governing coalition in 1998
– collapsed in 1999

• BJP formed a new coalition in 1999
– more broadly based than previous coalition

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
• economic liberalization and stability • privilege the interests of the Hindu majority

Prime Minister
• Leader of the majority party leader in Lok Sabha becomes the prime minister • prime minister nominates a cabinet
– members of Parliament in the ruling coalition – Council of Ministers

• effective power is concentrated in the office of the prime minister
– where most of the important policies originate

Prime Ministers of India
• 38 years in the Nehru-Gandhi family • more and more rapid turnover

The President of India
• Head of the State • Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces • elected by an electoral college
– national Parliament – state legislature

• 5-year terms • can be reelected

The President of India
• Ceremonial office
– symbolize national unity – supposedly above partisan politics

• mostly acts on the advice of the prime minister • President plays a significant role when the selection of a prime minister is complex
– in 1998 President requested BJP to form govt.

The Judiciary
• Fundamental contradiction in constitution
– principle of parliamentary sovereignty – principle of judicial review

The Judiciary
• judiciary tries to preserve the constitution’s basic structure • to ensure that legislation conforms with the intent of the constitution • parliament tries to assert its right to amend the constitution

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