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Indian Government System

Inspired and guided by Mahatma Gandhi and his unique philosophy of SATYAGRAHA and Non Violence, India attained her Independence on 15th August 1947. Later, the People of India, 'gave unto themselves', a Constitution, that has governed the Republic of India since then.

India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government, and at the heart of the system is a commitment to hold regular, free and fair elections. These elections determine the composition of the government, the membership of the two houses of parliament, the state and union territory legislative assemblies, and the Presidency and vice-presidency.

Federal System

India, a union of states, is a Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic with a Parliamentary system of Government. The Indian polity is governed in terms of the Constitution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950.

The President is the constitutional head of Executive of the Union. Real executive power vests in a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as head. Article 74(1) of the Constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advise the President who shall, in exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to the Lok Sabha, the House of the People.

In the states, the Governor, as the representative of the President, is the head of Executive, but real executive power rests with the Chief Minister who heads the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers of a state is collectively responsible to the elected legislative assembly of the state.

The Constitution governs the sharing of legislative power between Parliament and the State Legislatures, and provides for the vesting of residual powers in Parliament. The power to amend the Constitution also vests in Parliament.

The Union Executive consists of the President, the Vice-President and Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President.


The President is elected by members of an Electoral College consisting of elected members of both Houses of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of the states, with suitable weightage given to each vote. His term of office is five years.

Among other powers, the President can proclaim an emergency in the country if he is satisfied that the security of the country or of any part of its territory is threatened whether by war or external agression or armed rebellion. When there is a failure of the constitutional machinery in a state, he can assume to himself all or any of the functions of the government of that state.


The Vice-President is elected by the members of an electoral college consisting of members of both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. He holds office for five years. The Vice-President is Ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers comprises Cabinet Ministers, Minister of States (independent charge or otherwise) and Deputy Ministers. Prime Minister communicates all decisions of the Council of Ministers relating to administration of affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation to the President. Generally, each department has an officer designated as secretary to the Government of India to advise Ministers on policy matters and general administration. The Cabinet Secretariat has an important coordinating role in decision making at highest level and operates under direction of Prime Minister.

The Legislative Arm of the Union, called Parliament, consists of the President, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. All legislation requires consent of both houses of parliament. However, in case of money bills, the will of the Lok Sabha always prevails.

Rajya Sabha

The Rajya Sabha consists of 245 members. Of these, 233 represent states and union territories and 12 members are nominated by the President. Elections to the Rajya Sabha are indirect; members are elected by the elected members of Legislative Assemblies of the concerned states. The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution, one third of its members retire every second year.

Lok Sabha

The Lok Sabha is composed of representatives of the people chosen by direct election on the basis of universal adult suffrage. As of today, the Lok Sabha consists of 545 members with two members nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian Community. Unless dissolved under unusual circumstances, the term of the Lok Sabha is five years.

Indian Elections -Scale of Operation

Elections in India are events involving political mobilisation and organisational complexity on an amazing scale. In the 1996 election to Lok Sabha there were 1,269 candidates from 38 officially recognised national and state parties seeking election, 1,048 candidates from registered parties, not recognised and 10,635 independent candidates. A total number of 59,25,72,288 people voted. The Election Commission employed almost 40,00,000 people to run the election. A vast number of civilian police and security forces were deployed to ensure that the elections were carried out peacefully. The direct cost of organising the election amounted to approximately Rs. 5,180 million.

Constituencies & Reservation of Seats

The country has been divided into 543 Parliamentary Constituencies, each of which returns one MP to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Parliament. The size and shape of the parliamentary constituencies are determined by an independent Delimitation Commission, which aims to create constituencies which have roughly the same population, subject to geographical considerations and the boundaries of the states and administrative areas.

How Constituency Boundaries are drawn up

Delimitation is the redrawing of the boundaries of parliamentary or assembly constituencies to make sure that there are, as near as practicable, the same number of people in each constituency. In India boundaries are meant to be examined after the ten-yearly census to reflect changes in population, for which Parliament by law establishes an independent Delimitation Commission, made up of the Chief Election Commissioner and two judges or ex-judges from the Supreme Court or High Court. However, under a constitutional amendment of 1976, delimitation was suspended until after the census of 2001, ostensibly so that states' family-planning programmes would not affect their political representation in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. This has led to wide discrepancies in the size of constituencies, with the largest having over 25,00,000 electors, and the smallest less than 50,000.

Reservation of Seats

The Constitution puts a limit on the size of the Lok Sabha of 550 elected members, apart from two members who can be nominated by the President to represent the Anglo-Indian community. There are also provisions to ensure the representation of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, with reserved constituencies where only candidates from these communities can stand for election. There was an attempt to pass legislation to reserve one third of the seats for female candidates but the dissolution of Lok Sabha for the 1998 election occurred before the bill had completed its passage through parliament.

System of Election

Elections to the Lok Sabha are carried out using a first-past-the-post electoral system. The country is split up into separate geographical areas, known as constituencies, and the electors can cast one vote each for a candidate (although most candidates stand as independents, most successful candidates stand as members of political parties), the winner being the candidate who gets the maximum votes.


The Parliament of the Union consists of the President, the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The President is the head of country, and he appoints the Prime Minister, who runs the government, according to the political composition of the Lok Sabha. Although the government is headed by a Prime Minister, the Cabinet is the central decision making body of the government. Members of more than one party can make up a government, and although the governing parties may be a minority in the Lok Sabha, they can only govern as long as they have the confidence of a majority of MPs, the members of the Lok Sabha. Amongst the two houses, the Lok Sabha is the main legislative body which forms the government and takes all vital decisions along with the support of the Rajya Sabha .

Rajya Sabha - The Council of States

The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly, rather than by the citizens at large. Rajya Sabha members are elected by each state Vidhan Sabha using the single transferable vote system. Unlike most federal systems, the number of members returned by each state is roughly in proportion to their population. At present there are 233 members of the Rajya Sabha elected by the Vidhan Sabhas, and there are also twelve members nominated by the President as representatives of literature, science, art and social services. Rajya Sabha members can serve for six years, and elections are staggered, with one third of the assembly being elected every 2 years.

Nominated members

The president can nominate 2 Anglo-Indian members of the Lok Sabha if it is felt that the representation of the Anglo-Indian community is inadequate, and 12 Veteran members of the Rajya Sabha, to represent literature, science, art and the social services.

State Assemblies

India is a federal country, and the Constitution gives the states and union territories significant control over their own government. The Vidhan Sabhas (legislative assemblies) are directly elected bodies set up to carrying out the administration of the government in the 25 States of India. In some states there is a bicameral organisation of legislatures, with both an upper and Lower House. Two of the seven Union Territories viz., the National Capital Territory of Delhi and Pondicherry, have also legislative assemblies.

Elections to the Vidhan Sabhas are carried out in the same manner as for the Lok Sabha election, with the states and union territories divided into single-member constituencies, and the first-past-the-post electoral system used. The assemblies range in size, according to population. The largest Vidhan Sabha is for Uttar Pradesh, with 425 members; the smallest Pondicherry, with 30 members.

President and Vice-President

The President is elected by the elected members of the Vidhan Sabhas, Lok Sabha, and Rajya Sabha, and serves for a period of 5 years (although they can stand for re-election). A formula is used to allocate votes so there is a balance between the population of each state and the number of votes assembly members from a state can cast, and to give an equal balance between state and national assembly Parliament members. If no candidate receives a majority of votes there is a system by which losing candidates are eliminated from the contest and votes for them transferred to other candidates, until one gain a majority. The Vice President is elected by a direct vote of all members elected and nominated, of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Single Transferable Vote System

Election for the members of the Rajya Sabha and the President are carried out using the single transferable vote system. The single transferable vote system is designed to ensure more diverse representation, by reducing the opportunity for blocks of voters to dominate minorities. The ballot paper lists all candidates standing for election and the voters' list them in order of preference. A threshold number of votes, known as the 'quota' is set, which candidates have to achieve to be elected. For presidential elections the quota is set at one more than half the number of votes, ensuring that the winner is the candidate who gets a clear majority. For the Rajya Sabha the quota is set at the number of votes that can be attained by just enough MPs to fill all the seats but no more. Votes that are deemed surplus, those given to candidates who have already got a full quota of votes, or votes given to candidates who are deemed to be losing candidates, are transferred according to the voter's listed preferences, until the right number of candidates have been elected.

Independent Election Commission

An independent Election Commission has been established under the Constitution in order to carry out and regulate the holding of elections in India.

The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950. Originally a Chief Election Commissioner ran the commission, but first in 1989 and later again in 1993 two additional Election Commissioners were appointed.

The Election Commission is responsible for the conduct of elections to parliament and state legislatures and to the offices of the President and Vice-President.

The Election Commission prepares, maintains and periodically updates the Electoral Roll, which shows who is entitled to vote, supervises the nomination of candidates, registers political parties, monitors the election campaign, including candidates' funding. It also facilitates the coverage of the election process by the media, organises the polling booths where voting takes place, and looks after the counting of votes and the declaration of results. All this is done to ensure that elections can take place in an orderly and fair manner.

At present, there are two Election Commissioners appointed by the President. Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only by parliamentary impeachment.

The Commission decides most matters by consensus but in case of any dissension, the majority view prevails.


The state legislature is bicameral in some and in some it is unicameral. In most states legislature is unicameral. In unicameral state legislature the (only) house is called Legislative Assembly. In states where there are two houses there is a Legislative Council along with Legislative Assembly. In such a case Legislative Assembly is the Lower House of the State Legislature while the Legislative Council is the Upper House. Governor is an integral part of the State Legislature.

The Legislative Assembly consists of not more than 500 members and not less than 60. The biggest state Uttar Pradesh has 425 members in its Assembly. States which have small population and are small in size have a provision for having even lesser number of members in the Legislative Assembly. Pondicherry, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh have only 30 members each. Sikkim has 32 members. All members of the Legislative Assembly are elected on the basis of adult franchise, and one member is elected from one constituency. Just as the President has the power to nominate 2 Anglo Indians to the Lok Sabha, similarly, the Governor also has the power to nominate a certain number of members from the Anglo Indian community as he deems fit, if he is of the opinion that they are not adequately represented in the Assembly.
The Legislative Council consists of not more than 1/3rd of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly of the state and not less than 40. The members of the Legislative Council are elected as well as nominated. Broadly speaking, 5/6th of the total members of the Council are indirectly elected and 1/6th are nominated by the Governor. The composition is as follows:
i) 1/3 of the total members of the Council are elected by electorates consisting of members of local bodies such as corporations, municipalities and zila parishads.

ii) 1/3 are be elected by members of Legislative Assembly from among the persons who are not members of the Assembly.
iii) 1/12 are elected by electorates consisting of persons who are graduates of three years standing, residing in that state.
iv) 1/12 are elected by electorates consisting of persons engaged for at least three years in teaching in educational institutions within the state, not lower in standard than secondary schools.

v) The remainder are nominated by the Governor from persons having knowledge or practical experience in fields such as legislature, science, arts, co-operative movement and social service.

Qualification for membership of the state legislature

The qualifications to be a member of the state Legislature are largely similar to the qualifications to be the members of Parliament. A person can become a member of the Legislative Assembly of the state if he or she is
i) a citizen of India ii) not less than 25 years of age to be member of the Legislative Assembly and not less than 30 to be a member of the Legislative Council. No person can become .a member of the Legislative Assembly or the Legislative Council of any state, unless he himself is a voter from any constituency of the state. Those who cannot become members of Parliament can also not become members of state Legislature.


The term of the Legislative Assembly is five years. But it may be dissolved even earlier than five years by the Governor on the request of Chief Minister. The term of the Legislative Assembly may be extended during an Emergency, but not more than six months at a time.

The Legislative Council is the Upper House in the State. Just like the Rajya Sabha it is a permanent House and cannot be dissolved. The term of each member is 6 years and 1/3rd members of the House retire after every two years.

Presiding Officers

You have read about the Presiding officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha In the same way the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council also have Presiding Officers. The Legislative Assembly has a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker. They are elected from among the members of the House. The Legislative Council has a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman. They are elected from among its members. The functions performed by these presiding officers are similar to the function of presiding officers of the two Houses of Parliament. The Speaker of the Assembly can decide whether a bill is a money bill or not. Presiding Officers of both the Houses have the right to exercise casting vote in case of tie.

Powers of the State Legislature

The most important function of the Legislature is law making. The State Legislature has the power to make laws on all items on which Parliament cannot legislate. Some of these items are police, prisons, irrigation, agriculture, local governments, public health, pilgrimages, burial grounds etc. Some items on which both Parliament and states can make laws are education, marriage and divorce, forests, protection of wild animals and birds etc.

As regards Money Bill, the position is the same. Bills can originate only in me Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council can either pass the bill within 14 days from the date of the receipt of the Bill or suggest changes in it within 14 days. But these changes may or may not be accepted by the Assembly.

The State Legislature besides making laws also has one electoral power, m electing the President of India me elected members of the Legislative Assembly also take part along with the elected members of Parliament.

We have seen that some, parts of the Constitution can be amended by Parliament with the approval of half of State Legislatures. Thus the State legislatures take part in the process of amendment of our Constitution.

Ministers in the state governments are responsible to the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of the state. Like Lok Sabha at the centre, state Assembly also keeps constant vigil over state's Council of Ministers. This is done through questions, supplementary questions and adjournment motions. The Assembly may force the Chief Minister and the Council of Minister to resign if it adopts a vote of no confidence against the government, or if a government proposal, bill or budget is rejected by the Assembly.


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