- Culture & Society
Elections in the World's Largest Democracy
25 Jan 2022
The Republic of India is known around the globe as the largest democracy in the world. Since India’s independence almost 75 years ago, parliamentary democracy has proven to be resilient and adaptable despite a number of challenges and crises. In view of the enormous size of the country and the tremendous ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of Indian society, India’s democracy can be considered as a success story that can serve as a model to follow.
With the founding of the Republic of India on January 26, 1950, centuries of colonial oppression on the Indian subcontinent came to an end. It is not surprising that the architects of the Indian constitution were inspired by democratic constitutions in Europe and North America. In particular, the influence of the United Kingdom as the old colonial power is reflected in India’s political system. Some characteristics of the British Westminster model can be found in the structure of Indian democracy. These include the close link between the parliamentary majority and the government, as well as the electoral process – MPs for both the Indian Lok Sabha and the British House of Commons are elected using the first-past-the-post system.
Although India’s democratic institutions and constitution show clear similarities to European democracies, the Indian people can take pride in pointing to India’s distinct democratic culture and history. After all, the Indian independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi used non-violent means of protest to bring about the overthrow of the British colonial regime, paving the way for a democratic state. Due to the demographic diversity of the Indian multi-ethnic state, a federal system was established at the time of independence, which distributes state powers on different levels. According to this structure, democratic elections are held not only at the national level, but also at the state and the local levels.
The first-past-the-post electoral system as well as a legislative period of 5 years apply both to the elections to the Lok Sabha, the first chamber of the Indian parliament, and to the separate elections to the legislative assemblies of the 28 states of India and of the three union territories of Delhi, Puducherry as well as Jammu and Kashmir. In each of the 543 constituencies spread across India, one MP is elected to represent his/her constituency in the capital New Delhi. In the 28 states and three union territories, the delegates are likewise chosen on the basis of the election results in the respective constituencies, whereas the remaining 5 union territories do not have their own legislative body, as they are governed directly from Delhi.
By participating in the Lok Sabha elections, India’s adult citizens cannot only determine the majority in India’s first chamber of parliament, but also indirectly decide who holds the office of prime minister. After all, India’s prime minister must have a majority in the Lok Sabha to hold this most powerful office in the state. While the President of India is the head of state, he/she primarily performs representative tasks. Both the Indian President and the members of the Rajya Sabha, the second chamber of parliament, are not directly elected by the people. Of the 245 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, 12 are appointed directly by the President, while the remaining 233 are elected by the legislatures of the states and the three union territories already mentioned. Depending on the number of inhabitants, the states and union territories are entitled to a different number of seats in the state chamber.
If you want to learn more about India’s political system, read our article on the states of India!
If you have any further questions concerning India’s democracy write them in the comments below or directly to [email protected]!
Written by: Ferdinand Schlechta
Cover Photo: Element5 Digital - Unsplash
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