Overview of Indian Politics

Introduction

India, is a diverse country with a rich political history. The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, turned India into a parliamentary form of government which is federal in structure. The executive power of the union government is vested with the President of India (as per Art.53(1) of the Constitution). The Prime Minister is the head of the Council of Ministers who together provide assistance to the President. In practice, the real executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister who leads the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Narendra Modi took oath as the 15th Prime Minister of India on 26th May 2014. Mr. Modi was earlier the Chief Minister (head of state) of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. Dr Manmohan Singh was the 14th Prime Minister and the third longest Prime Minister in office from 2004 to 2014. Prior to this, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s longest serving Prime Minister (1947-1964).

Structure of Indian polity

Legislature, executive and judiciary are three main organs of the Indian Government. They together perform the functions of the government, maintain law and order and look after the welfare of the people. The Constitution enables them to work in coordination with each other. 

The executive government consists of the President, Vice-President and the Cabinet of Ministers. The President has the right to all constitutional powers and acts only the advice of the head of the government (The Prime Minister) and the Council of Ministers. In the absence of the President due to impeachment or resignation, the Vice-President (second highest constitutional post) of the country takes over. The Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President and he/she picks the Council of Ministers. The term for the Prime Minister is a 5-year term and can get re-elected if the party comes back to power.

The legislature or the parliament consists of the Lok Sabha (Lower House) and Rajya Sabha (Upper House). The Lok Sabha has direct elections by the people. Members of Lok Sabha are elected for a term of five years. The party with the majority in the Lok Sabha will elect a leader to be the Prime Minister. The President appoints the Prime Minister to lead the Council of Ministers in the parliament. At present there are 543 members elected by the voting population of India and two Anglo Indians are elected by the President of India.

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House (indirectly elected body) represents the States of India. People from all states elect members to State Legislative Assembly who in turn elect members of Rajya Sabha. Members of Rajya Sabha are elected for a term of six years. Currently there are 238 members who are elected by the States and 12 members are nominated by the President for their contribution in the fields of art, literature, science and social services.

Indian Judiciary system comprises of Supreme Court, 21 High courts and several family and civil courts at the district level. Judiciary is an important organ of the government.

Political Parties
In India, political parties are either a national party or a state party. For any party to become a national party either as opposition or as a ruling party they have to be recognised in at least four or more states. Two important national parties that have played a predominant role in Indian political domain are INC-led UPA (left coalition) and BJP-led NDA (right central alliance). Some of the other major political parties in India can be categorised as follows

Indian National Congress (INC)
The Indian National Congress was established in the year 1885. They have had strong dominance in different states since the time of India’s Independence. INC (left coalition with other parties known as United Progressive Alliance (UPA)) was the ruling party from 1999-2004 and from 2009-2014. Currently, the party holds 9.1% or 48 seats out of 543 seats in the Lok Sabha. During the party’s regime some of the major contributions to the economic development of Indian state were the 1991 LPG reforms, MGNREGA program, RTI and other development-related schemes. The main ideology of the INC party is related to social democracy and Gandhian secularism.

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)
The Bhartiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Association) came into existence in April,1980 as a result of the spilt between Bhartiya Jan Sangh and the Janata Party. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) is a hard-core member of the Sangh Parivar and is nurtured by RSS ideology of serving the nation. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance advocates itself with a pro-development agenda and as a champion of the socio-religious values of the country’s Hindu majority. They had earlier formed the government between 1998-2004. As of 2014, National Democratic Alliance coalition(NDA) led by the BJP is the ruling coalition in the Parliament with majority in 13 states. The party’s representation of members in the Lok Sabha is nearly 51.2% or 273 seats out of 543 seats.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
The Bahujan Samaj Party or the Majority People’s Party is an important national party in India. The main ideology of the BSP is social transformation and economic emancipation of the Bahujan Samaj or the Other Backward Castes, Scheduled castes, Scheduled tribes and other minorities in India. It was formed in 1984 mainly to represent the voice of those other than the majority Hindus. With Mayawati coming to power, the party has had a significant number in the parliament, but over the years the BSP in the eyes of the public have been charged with many corruption charges, financial scandals and mis-use of power.

Samajwadi Party (SP)
The party of the socialist society (Samajwadi Party) is based in Uttar Pradesh and is the largest state party in India. It was established in 1992 with an aim of creating a socialist society which works based on the principle of equality. The origin of the party goes back to when Mr. Yadav spilt from the Janata Party in 1992. The support from minorities such as the Muslim Community and other lower castes helped the party come to power. The leaders from the party belong to the Yadav family. The party gained a majority in the state during the 2002 state assembly elections and again in 2012. They are known to be very corrupt in the eyes of the public. In the recent state assembly elections held in 2017, the BJP took over the SP party which had been ruling party in the state.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M)
The Communist Party of India Marxist was established in the year 1964. The main ideology of the party is centred on socialism, communism and establishment of full power to the working class. The principles of Marx and Lenin are the main guiding forces of the party’s activities. The party is currently concentrated in the state of Kerala.

All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)

The All India Trinamool Congress was established in the year 1998 by Mamata Banerjee. Since 2014, they are the fourth largest national party in India. Currently, AITC is the ruling party in the state of West Bengal. The party mainly aims to make all round development of India in the political, economic and social dimensions with the use of the principles of Socialism, Secularism and Democracy.