Government in India, Today


India\'s present constitution went into effect on Jan. 26, 1950. At that time, the nation changed its status from a dominion to a federal republic, though it remained within the Commonwealth. A president, chosen by an Electoral College replaced the governor-general, appointed by the British Crown. The president is the official chief of state, but the office is largely ceremonial.
In parliamentary government, the people in a country elect members of at least one house of the legislature (by any variety of means: proportional representation as in Israel, single member districts as in Britain). The party or coalition of parties (coalition means a group working together) whose members together form a majority (more than one-half) of the legislature form the government. This means that they select the Prime Minister (the leader of the government) as well as members of the Cabinet (the PM and the Cabinet are known collectively as the government; the parties not in power form the loyal opposition). A key aspect of the parliamentary system is that the executive (the Prime Minister and the Cabinet) is elected by the legislature. This contrasts with our own system with its separation of powers. In the US, the president (leader of the executive branch) and Congress (the legislature) are elected separately by the people.
The Lower House of the legislature is called the Lok Sabha. Currently, up to a week or two ago, the Congress Party held a majority of seats in the Lok Sabha, so its leader was the Prime Minister of India. The other house of the legislature is the Rajya Sabha and like the English House of Lords it has less power than the Lower House. The other parties in the Lok Sabha form the opposition. These parties include: the Bharatiya Janata Party (a Hindu nationalist party), Janata Dal as well as a whole host of regional parties.
Parliamentary government is distinguished from presidential government by the following:
- Voters only vote for a legislature;
- The legislature then selects the executive from the party or coalition of parties that have the confidence of a majority of the legislature;
- The executive will then govern until it finishes its fix term (I believe India it is 5 years), OR until it loses in a vote of confidence in the legislature, usually or some important legislation.


Laws are enacted by a Parliament consisting of two chambers--the popularly elected Lok Sabha, or House of the People, with not more than 545 members and the Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, with not more than 250 indirectly elected members. The Prime Minister is elected by the majority party or coalition in Parliament and then formally appointed by the president. The appointed Council of Ministers, or cabinet, under the leadership of the Prime Minister exercises executive power. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held at least every five years; if there is a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister\'s government, the president must call for new elections. The Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of federal laws, handles disputes between the central government and the states or between the states themselves, and judges\' appeals from lower courts.
The federal constitution includes a lengthy list of fundamental rights. It guarantees freedom of speech and religion, among many other rights, and abolishes untouchability. It also specifies a set of Directive Principles of State Policy, designed to guide the government in the interests of the people. In periods of national emergency, which only the president can declare, the government may legally suspend certain rights for a limited period. Such an emergency was in force in India from June 1975 to March 1977.
In foreign affairs India tried to maintain a policy of nonalignment in the political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It supported independence movements in areas subject to colonial rule, opposed racism in South Africa and elsewhere, and championed the nations of the Third World in their economic dealings with the affluent countries of Europe, North America, and Japan. India has played a prominent role in the United Nations and in many of its specialized agencies.
India consists of 25 states and seven union territories. The governments of the states are organized in much the same way as the central government. The