The Republic of India is governed according to the provisions of a constitution adopted in 1949 and amended frequently since. It incorporates various features of the constitutional systems of the United Kingdom, the United States, and other Western democracies.
By the terms of the constitution, India is a sovereign democratic republic within the Commonwealth of Nations. The government is federal in its structure and India is a union of states and centrally administered union territories. There are 28 states, 6 union territories, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
The chief executive and head of state of India is the president. The role of president in government is largely nominal and ceremonial, however, for actual executive power resides in a council of ministers responsible to the parliament, which is composed of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States or upper house) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People or lower house). The president is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of the elected members of the national and state legislatures and is eligible for successive terms. Balloting in the electoral college is a highly complicated process. The council of ministers, or Cabinet, is headed by a prime minister, who is formally appointed by the president.
Each of its members is the head of an administrative department of the central government. In most important respects, the Indian Cabinet system is identical to that of the United Kingdom. The constitution vests national legislative power in India in a bicameral parliament consisting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha consists of up to 550 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage (545 in 2004), and up to two members who may be appointed by the president to represent the Anglo-Indian community. So-called scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are specifically allocated 79 and 41 seats respectively in the Lok Sabha. Members of the Lok Sabha normally serve for five years, the statutory limit for the duration of the house. However, the house may be dissolved upon defeat of major legislation proposed by the executive branch of the government. The Rajya Sabha has up to 250 members (245 in 2001). All are elected by the elected members of the state legislative assemblies except for 12 who are appointed by the president. The Rajya Sabha is a permanent body; the terms of one third of the members of the council expire biennially.
The Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, led India in the struggle for independence and in various incarnations has provided most of the country’s prime ministers. In 1969 a group of Congress members left the party to form the small Indian National Congress-Organization (or O). Another party that has had influence across the nation, but particularly in West Bengal and Kerala, is the Communist Party of India (CPI), formed in 1925, which later split in 1964, the breakaway faction founding the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI-M). In early 1977 Congress (O) joined with three other parties, Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Bharatiya Lok Dal, and the Socialist Party, to form the Janata Party, which won about half of the seats in the Lok Sabha in elections in March 1977. In May the Janata Party achieved a solid majority by merging with the Congress for Democracy. In 1978 the Congress Party split again, as Indira Gandhi founded the Indian National Congress-Indira (or I), which in 1981 was confirmed by the Supreme Court as the official Congress Party. Congress (I) swept to victory in parliamentary elections in 1980 and 1984, but lost its majority in 1989. In 1988 Janata Dal (People’s Party) was formed by a merger of the Janata Party, Lok Dal, and Jan Morcha. The major competitors for Congress in the 1989 elections included Janata Dal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a right-wing Hindu nationalist group, formed by breakaway members of the Janata Party in 1980. The BJP increased its electoral support—and formed a government for 13 days in 1996, although it was unable to muster the majority necessary to remain in control, and a coalition of Leftist parties called the United Front came to power, supported by the Congress. Elections were held in 1998, when the BJP came to power backed by a coalition of parties. Tensions existed within this coalition, notably concerning one of the regional parties, the AIADMK (a party of the state of Tamil Nadu). Its leader, the former film star Jayalalitha withdrew her support during a vote of confidence, and the government fell. Despite this, the BJP as the leading party in the National Democratic Alliance (without the AIADMK) was re-elected in 1999.
Elections held in April and May 2004 saw a surprise victory for the India National Congress. The party took 147 seats and with its allies secured 217 seats overall. The ruling BJP won 138 seats as part of a larger electoral alliance called the National Democratic Alliance (185 seats). "India" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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