Election-Politics-Parties and Government in India

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

India is a federation with a Parliamentary system government under the Constitution of India, which defines the power distribution between the Union or Central government and the States. The President of India is the ceremonial head of the state who is elected indirectly for a period of five years term by an electoral college, comprising members of national and state legislatures.

The Prime Minister of India is the head of government and exercises most executive power. Appointed by the President, the Prime Minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance having a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha or lower house of Parliament.

Election in the republic of India include election for members of parliament in LokSabha, members of State Legislative Assembly, members of Parliament in Rajya Sabha and for members in local panchayat or city corporation Council. Elections are conducted by the Election Commission of India, which is an autonomous entity prescribed in the Constitution of India. It is the federal authority, responsible for administering all the electoral process of India and ensuring they are free and fair.

Elections are conducted according to constitutional provisions and parliamentary legislation. These include the Representation of the people Act, 1950 which mainly deals with the preparation and revision of electoral rolls and the Representation of the People Act 1957 which deals in detail with all aspect of the conduct of elections and post-electiondisputes.

The Supreme Court of India has held that where the enacted Laws are silent or make insufficient provisions to deal with a given situation in the conduct of elections, the Election Commission has residuary powers under the constitution to act in an appropriate manner. When we talk about election in India, we primarily consider Lok Sabha election and State assembly election, other election like Rajyasabha, Local civic bodies are considered secondary importance in spite of having their significance for the public interest.

Politics of India takes place within the framework of the Country’s Constitution. India follows the duel polity system i.e a double government that consist of the Central authority at the center and the state at the periphery. The Constitution defines the organizational powers and limitations of both Central and State government and it is well recognized, rigid and considered supreme i.e the Laws of the nation must conform to it.

There is provision for a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house ,the Rajya Sabha ( Council of States) which represent the states of Indian federation and a lower house ,the LokSabha ( House of People) which represent the people of India as a whole. The Indian 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 Central government and the State government, 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 writes for their enforcement in case of violation.

Government are formed through elections held every five years (Unless otherwise specified) by parties that secure a majority of members in their respective lower house (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 partythat 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 rise of coalition government. The election for the 16thLokSabha, held from April to May 2014, once again brought back single-party rule in the country with the BJP being able to claim a majority in the Lok Sabha.

Again the result of the 17th Lok Sabha election of 2019 announced on 23rd& 24th May 2019, BJP alone captured 303 seats, this together with its allied partner (NDA) obtained 353 seats while Congress could captured only 52 seats, this together with its allies (UPA) got only 97 seats, therest are non-allied parties out of 543 seats of which election were held in 542 constituencies. In recent decades, Indian politics has become a dynastic affairs.

Possible reason for this could be the absence of party organization, independent Civil Society association that mobilize, support the parties and centralized financing of elections. “The Economist Intelligence Unit” rated India as a “flawed democracy” in 2016. This phenomenon is seen both at the national level and state level. 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. At the state level too, a number of political parties ,for example ; Shiromoni Akali Dal, DMK, ShivaSena, PDP, Telegu Desam Party, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Janata Dal (Secular) and Samajwadi party , RJD are led by family members of previous leader. However the result of 2019 election, seems to indicate the end of dynasty politics chapter in India which has become less significance political story these days.

Comparing with other democratic countries, India has a large number of political parties. It has been estimated that over 200 parties were formed after 1947. Some features of the political parties in India are that the parties are generally woven around their leaders, the leaders are actively playing dominant role and that the role of the leadership can be transferred, thus finding to take a dynastic route.

The two main parties in India are Bharatiya Janata Party also known as BJP and the Indian National Congress commonly called INC or simply Congress. These two parties dominate national politics. On the left-right politicalspectrum, the Indian National Congress is a welfare – heavy Centreparty, whereas the BJP (Claiming to be fiscally conservative but also welfare –heavy and government interventionist) is a socially Right-Wing party.

There are two types of political parties in India—National party and Regional/ state party. Every political party must bear a symbol and must be registered with the Election Commission of India. Symbols are used in Indian political system as an identity of political parties and so that illiterate people can also vote by recognizing symbol of the party. The lack of homogeneity in the Indian population causesdivision between different section of the people based on religion, region, language, caste and race.

This has led to the rise of political parties with agendas catering to one or a mix of these groups. Parties in India also target people who are not in favor of other parties and use them as an asset. Some parties openly profess their focus on a particular group; for example the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagams(DMK) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhgams (AIADMK) focus on the Dravidian population and Tamil Identity.

Biju Janata Dal championing of odia culture; the Shiva Senna’s pro Marathi agenda; Naga people Front(NPF) demand for protection of Naga Tribal Identity; People’s democratic party(PDP) and National Conference(NC) calling for Kashmiri Muslim Identity. Some other partiesclaims to be universal in nature but tends to draw support from particular section of the population.

For example, Rashtriya JanataDal (RJD) has vote bank among the Yadav and Muslim population of Bihar and All India Trinamool Congress does not have any significant support outside West Bengal except few seats in the last tenure of Manipur legislative Assembly. The narrow focus and vote bank politics of most parties even in the central government and central legislatures, sidelines national issues such as economic welfare and national security.

Moreover, internal security is also threatened as incidence of political partiesinstigating and leading violence between two opposing groups of people is a frequent occurrence as we have seen during re-polling in 12 polling stations of 17thLok Sabha in Inner Manipur Parliamentary Election. Economics issues like poverty, unemployment, development are main issues that influence politics.

Garibi Hatao slogan of the Indian National Congress for a long time, the well-known Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) encourages a free market economy. The more popular slogan in the field is “ Sabka sath sabka Vikas” (Cooperation with all ,progressive of all). The communist party of India(Marxist) vehemently support left wing politics like land for all, right to work and strongly oppose neo-liberal politics such as globalization, capitalism and privatization.

Terrorism, Naxalism, religious violence, cast related violence and Insurgency problem in North East India (Especially in Manipur, Nagaland & Assam) 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 favor. Terrorism has affected politics in India since its conception, be it the terrorism supported from Pakistan or the internal guerrilla groups such as Naxalites.

On 31st October 1984, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India was assasinated by her two bodyguards ”satawant Singh & Beant Singh”, in the aftermath of “operation Blue Star”, the Indian Army’s June 1984 assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar which left the Sikh temple heavily damaged to flush out the Khalistan Movement of Sikh. Over the next four days thousands of Sikhs were killed in retaliatory violence.

In 1991, the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during an election campaign. The suicide bomber was later linked to the Sri Lankan terrorist group “Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)” as it was revealed the killing was an act of vengeance for Rajiv Gandhi sending troops in Sri Lanka against them in 1987.

The Babri Masjid demolition on 6th December 1992 by Hindu Kar Sevaks resulted in nationwide communal riots in two months, with worst occurring in Mumbai with at least 900 dead. The riot were followed by 1993 Mumbai Bomb blast which resulted in more deaths. Law and order issues such as action against organized crimes are issues which does not affect the outcomes of elections.

On the other hand, there is a criminal –politician’s nexus. Many elected legislatures 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. This is the real picture of Indian Election- Politics- Parties – Government and people.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a Faculty at NIELIT Imphal and can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 31 2019.

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