Politics of India

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Politics of India
Emblem of India.svg
Polity typeFederal Parliamentary Republic
ConstitutionConstitution of India
Legislative branch
Meeting placeSansad Bhavan
Upper house
NameRajya Sabha
Presiding officerVice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
AppointerElectoral College
Lower house
NameLok Sabha
Presiding officerOm Birla, Speaker of the Lok Sabha
Executive branch
Head of State
CurrentlyDraupadi Murmu
AppointerElectoral College
Head of Government
TitlePrime Minister
CurrentlyNarendra Modi
NameUnion Council of Ministers
Current cabinetSecond Modi ministry
LeaderPrime Minister
Judicial branch
Supreme Court
Chief judgeDhananjaya Y. Chandrachud

Politics of India works within the framework of the country's Constitution. India is a parliamentary secular democratic republic in which the president of India is the head of state & first citizen of India and the prime minister of India is the head of government. It is based on the federal structure of government, although the word is not used in the Constitution itself. India follows the dual polity system, i.e. federal in nature, that consists of the central authority at the centre and states at the periphery. The Constitution defines the organizational powers and limitations of both central and state governments; it is well recognised, fluid (Preamble of the Constitution being rigid and to dictate further amendments to the Constitution) and considered supreme, i.e. the laws of the nation must conform to it.

There is a provision for a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), which represents the states of the Indian federation, and a lower house, the Lok Sabha (House of the People), which represents the people of India as a whole. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which is headed by the Supreme Court. The court's mandate is to protect the Constitution, to settle disputes between the central government and the states, to settle inter-state disputes, to nullify any central or state laws that go against the Constitution and to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, issuing writs for their enforcement in cases of violation.[1]

There are 543 members in the Lok Sabha, who are elected using plurality voting (first past the post) system from 543 single-member constituencies. There are 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, out of which 233 are elected through indirect elections by single transferable vote by the members of the state legislative assemblies; 12 other members are elected/nominated by the President of India. Governments are formed through elections held every five years (unless otherwise specified), by parties that secure a majority of members in their respective lower houses (Lok Sabha in the central government and Vidhan Sabha in states). India had its first general election in 1951, which was won by the Indian National Congress, a political party that went on to dominate subsequent elections until 1977, when a non-Congress government was formed for the first time in independent India. The 1990s saw the end of single-party domination and the rise of coalition governments. The latest 17th Lok Sabha elections was conducted in seven phases from 11 April 2019 to 19 May 2019 by the Election commission of India. That elections once again brought back single-party rule in the country, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) being able to claim a majority in the Lok Sabha.[2]

In recent decades, Indian politics has become a dynastic affair.[3] Possible reasons for this could be the party stability, absence of party organisations, independent civil society associations that mobilise support for the parties and centralised financing of elections.[4]

Political parties and alliances

A view of the Parliament of India

When compared to other democracies, India has had a large number of political parties during its history under democratic governance. It has been estimated that over 200 parties were formed after India became independent in 1947. And as per the current publication report dated 23 September 2021 from the Election Commission of the India, the total number of parties registered was 2858, with 9 national parties and 54 state parties, and 2796 unrecognized parties working in country.[5]

Types of political parties

Every political party in India, whether a national or regional/state party, must have a symbol and must be registered with the Election Commission of India. Symbols are used in the Indian political system to identify political parties in part so that illiterate people can vote by recognizing the party symbols.[6]

In the current amendment to the Symbols Order, the commission has asserted the following five principles:[7]

  1. A party, national or state, must have a legislative presence.
  2. A national party's legislative presence must be in the Lok Sabha. A state party's legislative presence must be in the State Assembly.
  3. A party can set up a candidate only from amongst its own members.
  4. A party that loses its recognition shall not lose its symbol immediately but shall be allowed to use that symbol for some time to try and retrieve its status. However, the grant of such facility to the party will not mean the extension of other facilities to it, as are available to recognized parties, such as free time on Doordarshan or AIR, free supply of copies of electoral rolls, etc.
  5. Recognition should be given to a party only on the basis of its own performance in elections and not because it is a splinter group of some other recognized party.

A political party shall be eligible to be recognized as a national party if:[7]

  1. it secures at least six percent (6%) of the valid votes polled in any four or more states, at a general election to the Lok Sabha or, to the State Legislative Assembly; and .
  2. in addition, it wins at least four seats in the House of the People from any State or States.
  3. or it wins at least two percent (2%) seats in the House of the People (i.e. 11 seats in the existing House having 543 members), and these members are elected from at least three different states.

Likewise, a political party shall be entitled to be recognized as a state party, if:

  1. it secures at least six percent (6%) of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election, either to the Lok Sabha or to the Legislative Assembly of the State concerned; and
  2. in addition, it wins at least two seats in the Legislative Assembly of the state concerned.
  3. or it wins at least three percent (3%) of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the state, or at least three seats in the Assembly, whichever is more.

Party proliferation

Although a strict anti-defection law had been passed in 1984, there has been a continued tendency amongst politicians to float their own parties rather than join a broad based party such as the Congress or the BJP. Between the 1984 and 1989 elections, the number of parties contesting elections increased from 33 to 113. In the decades since, this fragmentation has continued.[8]


  • National Democratic Alliance (NDA) - Right-wing coalition led by BJP was formed in 1998 after the elections. NDA formed a government, although the government did not last long as AIADMK withdrew support from it resulting in 1999 general elections, in which NDA won and resumed power. The coalition government went on to complete the full five-years term, becoming the first non-Congress government to do so.[9] In the 2014 General Elections, NDA once again returned to powers for the second time, with a historic mandate of 336 out of 543 Lok Sabha seats. BJP itself won 282 seats, thereby electing Narendra Modi as the head of the government. In a historic win, the NDA stormed to power for the third term in 2019 with a combined strength of 353 seats, with the BJP itself winning an absolute majority with 303 seats
  • United Progressive Alliance (UPA) - Centre-left coalition led by Indian National Congress (INC); this alliance was created after the 2004 general elections, with the alliance forming the Government. The alliance even after losing some of its members, was re-elected in 2009 General Elections with Manmohan Singh as head of the government. The alliance has been in the opposition since the 2014 elections, with the INC being the principal opposition party, but without the official status of the Leader of the Opposition since they failed to win the minimum required seats.


India has seen political corruption for decades. Democratic institutions soon became federally owned, dissent was eliminated and a majority of citizens paid the price. The political corruption in India is weakening its democracy and has led to the erosion of trust by the general public in the political system. A good amount of money is required in elections which is source of political-capitalist nexus.[10]

Candidate selection

Indian political parties have low level of internal party democracy and therefore, in Indian elections, both at the state or national level, party candidates are typically selected by the party elites, more commonly called the party high command. The party elites use a number of criteria for selecting candidates. These include the ability of the candidates to finance their own election, their educational attainment, and the level of organization the candidates have in their respective constituencies.[11] Quite often the last criterion is associated with candidate criminality.[12]

Local governance

Panchayati Raj Institutions or Local self-government bodies play a crucial role in Indian politics, as it focuses on grassroot-level administration in India.

On 24 April 1993, the Constitutional (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 came into force to provide constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This Act was extended to Panchayats in the tribal areas of eight states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan from 24 December 1996.[13]

The Act aims to provide a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj for all States having a population of over 2 million, to hold Panchayat elections regularly every five years, to provide reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women, to appoint State Finance Commission to make recommendations as regards the financial powers of the Panchayats and to constitute District Planning Committee to prepare a draft development plan for the district.[13]

Role of political parties

On 22 May 2004, Manmohan Singh[14] was appointed the prime minister of India following the victory of the INC and the left front in the 2004 Lok Sabha election. The UPA ruled India without the support of the left front. Previously, Atal Bihari Vajpayee[15] had taken office in October 1999 after a general election in which a BJP-led coalition of 13 parties called the National Democratic Alliance emerged with a majority. In May 2014, Narendra Modi of BJP was elected as the prime minister.

Political issues

Door-to-door campaigning of Nationalist Congress Party workers

Law and order

Terrorism, Naxalism, religious violence and caste-related violence are important issues that affect the political environment of the Indian nation. Stringent anti-terror legislation such as TADA, POTA and MCOCA have received much political attention, both in favour and against, and some of these laws were disbanded eventually due to human rights violations.[16] However, UAPA was amended in 2019 to negative effect vis-á-vis human rights.

Terrorism has affected politics in India since its conception, be it the terrorism supported from Pakistan or the internal guerrilla groups such as Naxalites. In 1991 the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during an election campaign.[17] The suicide bomber was later linked to the Sri Lankan terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as it was later revealed the killing was an act of vengeance for Rajiv Gandhi sending troops in Sri Lanka against them in 1987.[17]

The Godhra train killings and the Babri Masjid demolition on 6 December 1992 resulted in nationwide communal riots in two months, with the worst occurring in Mumbai with at least 900 dead.[17][18] The riots were followed by 1993 Bombay bombings, which resulted in more deaths.

Law and order issues, such as action against organised crime are issues which do not affect the outcomes of elections. On the other hand, there is a criminal–politician nexus. Many elected legislators have criminal cases against them. In July 2008, the Washington Post reported that nearly a fourth of the 540 Indian Parliament members faced criminal charges, "including human trafficking, child prostitution, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder".[19]

High political offices in India

President of India

On 25 July 2022, Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as India's new president, becoming India's first tribal president. Although largely ceremonial post, Murmu's election as tribal woman was historic.[20]

Vice President of India

Like the president, the role of the vice-president is also ceremonial, with no real authority vested in him/her. The vice-president fills in a vacancy in the office of president (till the election of a new president). The only regular function is that the vice-president functions as the ex officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. No other duties/powers are vested in the office. The current vice-president is Jagdeep Dhankhar.[21]

The Prime Minister and the Union Council of Ministers

State governments

India has a federal form of government, and hence each state also has its own government. The executive of each state is the governor (equivalent to the president of India), whose role is ceremonial. The real power resides with the chief minister (equivalent to the prime minister) and the State Council of Ministers. States may either have a unicameral or bicameral legislature, varying from state to state. The chief minister and other state ministers are also members of the legislature.[22]

Political families

Since the 1980s, Indian politics has become dynastic, possibly due to the absence of a party organization, independent civil society associations that mobilize support for the party, and centralized financing of elections.[4] One example of dynastic politics has been the Nehru–Gandhi family which produced three Indian prime ministers. Family members have also led the Congress party for most of the period since 1978 when Indira Gandhi floated the then Congress(I) faction of the party.[23] The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also features several senior leaders who are dynasts.[24] Dynastic politics is prevalent also in a number of political parties with regional presence such as All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), All India Trinamool Congress (AITC), Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC), Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (JKPDP), Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S)), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), National People's Party (NPP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), Shiv Sena (SS), Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP).[25]

See also


  1. M. Lakshmikanth 2012, pp. 389–390.
  2. "General Election 2014". Election Commission of India. Archived from the original on 23 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  3. "Need for accountability in politics of dynasty". www.dailypioneer.com. Archived from the original on 17 January 2017. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Chhibber⇑, Pradeep (March 2013). "Dynastic parties Organization, finance and impact". Party Politics. 19 (2): 277–295. doi:10.1177/1354068811406995. S2CID 144781444.
  5. Chander 2001, pp. 389–390.
  6. Krzysztof Iwanek (2 November 2016). "The Curious Stories of Indian Party Symbols". The Diplomat. Archived from the original on 19 April 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2017.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Election Commission Of India Press Note". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  8. Hicken & Kuhonta 2014, p. 205.
  9. Agrawal, Puroshottam (1 September 1999). "Identity debate clouds India's elections". Le Monde diplomatique. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  10. "INDIANMIRROR- Political Corruption in India".
  11. "How political parties choose their candidates to win elections". Hindustan Times. No. 26 March 2018. Archived from the original on 22 April 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  12. Vaishnav, Milan (2011). Caste Politics, Credibility and Criminality: Political Selection in India. APSA 2011 Annual Meeting. SSRN 1899847.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Laxmikanth, M (2017). Indian Polity. McGraw Hill. p. 1145.
  14. "Welcome to Embassy of India, Washington D C, USA" (PDF). www.indianembassy.org. Archived from the original on 26 January 2012.
  15. Priyanka Shah (1 November 2014). "13 Amazing Facts about Atal Ji, the Bhishma Pitamah of Indian Politics". Topyaps. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  16. "Anti-Terrorism Legislation". Human rights watch. 20 November 2001. Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Guha 2008, pp. 637–659.
  18. "Shiv Sainiks will maintain peace post-Ayodhya verdict: Uddhav". Hindustan Times. HT Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 3 March 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
  19. Wax, Emily (24 July 2008). "With Indian Politics, the Bad Gets Worse". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  20. "Droupadi Murmu: India's first tribal president takes oath". BBC News. 25 July 2022.
  21. "Profile | Vice President of India | Government of India". vicepresidentofindia.nic.in. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  22. "Federalism in India - Federal Features & Unitary Features of the Indian Constitution". BYJUS. Retrieved 18 September 2022.
  23. Basu & Chandra 2016, p. 136.
  24. "Is the BJP less dynastic than the Congress? Not so, Lok Sabha data shows".
  25. Chandra 2016, pp. 131,136.


Further reading

External links