Where is Indian politics going

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The constitution combines the traditions of the colonial constitution of 1935 with numerous elements of Western democracies, such as a parliamentary system based on the British model and a catalog of fundamental rights. It defines India as a sovereign, secular, socialist and democratic Federal Republic with 28 union states, six centrally administered union territories and the capital city of Delhi (see also: Union states and territories).

legislative branch

The legislature of the Indian Union rests with a two-chamber parliament with a total of 791 members. The House of Commons, the Chamber of the People (Lok Sabha) is composed of 543 MPs who are elected for five years in general, direct, free and, if possible, equal elections according to simple majority voting. Two MPs are appointed by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian minority. 70 or 41 seats are reserved for representatives of certain castes or tribes (the so-called Scheduled Castes and Tribes) reserved. In the event of unclear majorities, the House of Commons can be dissolved by the President. The House of Lords, the Chamber of States (Rajya Sabha), consists of 245 MPs. Twelve members are appointed by the President, the remaining 233 are elected by the parliaments of the Union states. The Rajya Sabha is in contrast to Lok Sabha a permanent facility; a third of its members are appointed every two years for a six-year term.

The constitution provides a standard constitution for all Union states - except for Jammu & Kashmir - which roughly corresponds to the form of government of the Union. The legislature in the states rests with the Legislative Assemblies (also Vidhan Sabhas named), which are elected for a five-year term. In five of 28 states (Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh) exists in addition to the Legislative Assembly another Legislative Councilwho like that Rajya Sabha is a permanent facility. Depending on the state, the size of the legislative assemblies varies between 60 and 500 members. Of the total of 4061 seats, 557 and 527 are den Scheduled castes or. Tribes Reserved.

The constitution distinguishes between three areas of responsibility of the legislature. List 1 comprises 97 areas that are exclusive to the Union: foreign policy, defense, currency, external tariffs, postal services, radio and television, among others. List 2 contains 66 areas that fall within the exclusive competence of the Union states: including police and public order, education, health, agriculture and local government. List 3 regulates 47 areas that are a matter for both the Union and the states, whereby Union law violates state law: including economic and social affairs, trade unions and price control. All areas that are not regulated by one of the three lists are automatically a matter for the Union.


The head of state and head of the executive is the president. However, its role is essentially limited to representative tasks. He is elected for five years by the members of the federal parliament and all state parliaments in a complicated electoral process. The real power center of the executive is the Council of Ministers chaired by the Prime Minister. The Council of Ministers is that Lok Sabha collectively responsible to and governs on behalf of the President. It is customary for the Prime Minister, as the leader of the strongest faction in the House of Commons, to be appointed by the President and charged with forming a government. Although the prime minister is only first among equals, following the example of the British cabinet system, he has a prominent position through leading cabinet meetings, the right to reshuffle the government and control the secret services, the federal police and the powerful central planning commission.

On the proposal of the National Council of Ministers, the President appoints governors as heads of the individual Union states. Similar to the president, however, they play a largely ceremonial role, while the affairs of government are conducted on their behalf by the councils of ministers of the states. The councils of ministers are elected by the state parliaments; preside over the Chief Minister. However, in the event of the collapse of the constitutional order, state governments can use the so-called President's Rule be deposed by the Union government and placed under the direct control of New Delhi. In this case, the governor takes over the administration.


The judiciary is exercised through a system of national courts, at the head of which is the Supreme Court chaired by Chief Justice of India stands. Subordinate to it are the 18 High courts as the highest courts in the states and the lower courts (Subordinate Courts). While in Supreme Court and the High courts Judicial decisions are made by colleges of judges, this is generally done in the lower courts by single judges. Although the judges of the higher courts are appointed by the executive to ensure their independence, they can only be removed with a two-thirds majority of the Union parliament. In order to secure the lower courts from political influence, the service and personnel supervision is in the hands of High courts.

90% of the jurisprudence rests on the lower courts, which are therefore heavily overloaded and sometimes take decades to pass judgments. The High courts are the highest appeal bodies in a state. The Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction in the event of conflicts between the Union and states or between states. In addition, it is the highest court of appeal for all legal issues and can attract cases of particular interest.

Local government

At the municipal level, a distinction is made between city councils (Municipalities) and the village councils (Panchayats). How they are organized is a matter for the states, so that there are considerable differences in the structure of local government. The constitution requires the establishment of organs for local self-government. In the first years after independence, these bodies were given only minor powers. To strengthen local self-government, the Panchayat Raj Act adopted. Since then, the system of local government has become more uniform and the municipalities have been given more powers, but the implementation of the requirements by the states is only progressing slowly. The inadequate funding of local authorities is a particular obstacle.

The Panchayat-System is a three-tier council system, which is subdivided into village, block and district level. An appendix to the constitution lists 29 potential areas of responsibility: including health care, agriculture, local roads, public wells, the implementation of land reforms, basic education and small-scale industry. For the city administrations, 18 areas are named as potential competencies: including urban planning, municipal infrastructure, building supervision, sanitary facilities, vaccination programs and city schools.


A total of 17 to 19 million people are employed in the civil service. There are three types of civil service: a) Central Services, b) All-India Services and c) State Services. The first two are subject to the Union: their recruitment and the terms of their service are regulated by Parliament by law, and they depend on the will of the President. The Central Services take over tasks of the Union alone. There are currently around 50 of them, including the Indian Foreign Service for the diplomatic service or the Indian Railway Service for the railroad.

The services of the All-India Services are used by both the Union and the states, so they are of paramount importance for the administration of the country. The constitution names two All-India Services: the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) - both services are a legacy of colonial times. The IAS is the "administrative aristocracy" of the country - the central training in the north Indian Mussoorie generates an elitist corps spirit, its power and prestige are enormous. It is a multifunctional service, ie the approx. 5,000 IAS officials work as district officials as well as as Directors of steel mills and airlines, university presidents or city administrations, although they are officials of the Union, IAS officials occupy all senior posts in the administrations of the states where they oversee the nationals of the state State Services to have. The State Services are subordinate to the respective states. They are responsible for the administration at the "base" of the administrative hierarchy, so they are most likely to be confronted with the population - however, they are less educated and paid and therefore the most susceptible to corruption.

The IAS administration model also applies to the police, which is a matter for the States. The higher posts in the state police force are held by IPS officers who are dependent on the Union government, while the lower ranks are held by the State Police to be occupied. In addition to the police forces of the states, there are paramilitary reserve police forces that are subordinate to the Interior Ministry of the Union, such as the Central Reserve Police Force or the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. A total of around 1.2 million people serve in the Indian police force - that's twice as many people in India for one police officer as in Germany.


With almost 1.3 million soldiers, India has the third largest army in Asia - with a predominant focus on land forces. It's a volunteer army. The military commander in chief is the president, and the cabinet is responsible for planning the defense. The Minister of Defense is responsible for implementing the resolutions. All senior posts in the Ministry of Defense are filled with civilian officials, and to this day the authority of politics over the military has been preserved. Since independence, the Indian army has fought in four wars (against Pakistan in 1948, 1965, 1971 and against the PR China in 1962) and was and is active in various UN peace-keeping missions. In the past, however, it was also used for the unification of today's state, e.g. in the violent annexation of the Principality of Hyderabad (1948) or the Portuguese colony of Goa (1961), as well as in interventions that were intended to reinforce India's claim to regional leadership (Sri Lanka 1987, Maldives 1988). Recently, the military has been increasingly deployed inside, e.g. in Kashmir or Assam. Since the soldiers are protected from criminal prosecution by special laws, human rights violations are more frequent.


The Indian party system is extremely diverse: at the beginning of 1998 there were 654 registered parties in India. Although all larger parties have election programs, only in exceptional cases can we speak of program parties in the western sense. The vast majority are client parties led by charismatic personalities. Because of this person-relatedness, the party landscape is constantly in flux, as the death of a party leader often means the end of his party or personal rivalries and the "purchase" of MPs lead to party splits. The phenomenon of party splits in particular has contributed significantly to political instability in the past .

The oldest and still one of the largest Indian parties is that founded in 1885 Indian National Congress (INC). Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, he led the independence movement. Between 1947 and 1996, with brief interruptions between 1977 and 1980 and 1989 and 1991, Congress provided all prime ministers and was the force behind national integration. Since its election defeat in 1996 and numerous corruption scandals, the congress has been in decline, and Sonia Gandhi's free choice as chairman has so far not been able to lead the party out of the crisis.

The second large party is the much younger Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is the successor party to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, one in 1951 with the support of the radical Hindu nationalist cadre organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) founded party, which in 1977 in the Janata party rose, a heterogeneous multi-party alliance to overthrow Indira Gandhi. After the failure of the Janata-Experimentes, the BJP was founded in 1980. Since the end of the 1980s, it has been able to achieve increasing electoral success and in 1996 it became the strongest party in general elections for the first time, but failed to form a government. In 1998 the BJP won with its multi-party coalition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) the elections. With Atal Bihari Vajpayee it provided the first Hindu nationalist prime minister of India, whose first official acts included the nuclear tests in May 1998. In the spring of 1999, the Vajpayee government fell over the coalition break of the South Indian politician Jayalalitha, but was able to assert itself in the new elections in autumn 1999 with a reorganized NDA. Today the BJP-led alliance rules the country with a comfortable majority.

The communists are still among the few parties with a supraregional reach. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was founded in 1925 while in exile in the Soviet Union; In 1964, the Sino-Soviet antagonism, which dominated the ideological disputes within the party, led to a split, which led to the rival Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPM) emerged. Today the CPM is the stronger of the two communist parties with traditional strongholds in the states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.

There is also an abundance of regional parties that only compete in one or two Union states. The Dravidian parties competing for power in Tamil Nadu in southern India are also of importance at the national level Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, the radical Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, the Sikh party Akali Dal in Punjab, the lower-caste parties Samajwadi party, Rashtriya Janata Dal in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as well as the casteless party Bahujan Samaj Party.


  • Paul R. Brass (1994): The Politics of India Since Independence (New Cambridge History of India IV-1), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed.
  • Verinder Grover (ed.) (1997): Political System and Constitution of India, 10 vol.
  • Robert L. Hardgrave & Stanley A. Kochanek (1993): India. Government and Politics in a Developing Nation, Fort Worth, Texas: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 5th ed.
  • Dietmar Rothermund (1993): State and Society in India, Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut
  • Ramesh Thakur (1995): The Government and Politics of India, London: Macmillan


  • The constitution of the Republic of India (as of 1996) on the pages of the project for International Constitutional Law of the University of W├╝rzburg
  • A referring directory of governmental Indian websites (ministries, embassies, union states, organizations etc.) at the Indian National Informatics Center (NIC).
  • The homepage of the Indian Parliament with general information, plenary debates (much in Hindi), press releases; Photos and the constitution.
  • The homepage of the President of the Republic of India with general information on the presidency, press releases, speeches, interviews, photos, etc.
  • The Prime Minister's office with information on the Prime Minister's office and person, the Council of Ministers, press releases, speeches by the current and former Prime Ministers, cartoons, a virtual tour of the office, etc.
  • The Supreme Court of India with general information, case law, rules of procedure, portraits of current and former judges and a diary.
  • The website of the Election Commission of India with information on elections in India, election statistics and press releases.
  • The annual and campaign reports from Amnesty International on the human rights situation in India.