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Discussion: India’s Federal Government

Discussion: India’s Federal Government

Discussion: India’s Federal Government

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT:Discussion: India’s Federal Government

Ideas and Politics India’s Federal Government

On the face of it, the idea of India as an independent republic is absurd. And yet there it is: India is a federal system comprising twenty-eight states and seven union territories. Power resides in a freely elected parliament and a prime minister who is the leader of the majority party (as in other parliamentary systems). The prime minister chooses a cabinet that is presented for approval to the Lok Sabha, the lower house. The Rajya Sabha, or upper house, is indirectly elected; it plays second fiddle to the lower house, but it debates and can delay passage of legislation, thus giving its members a real voice in the policy-making and law-making processes.

· If a political system as complicated as parliamentary democracy can be transplanted from the outside into a society as diverse as India, why has it not worked for the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example? Think about it.

(Hint: What is different about the British colonial presence in India and the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan? Contrast the world in the nineteenth century with the world today. Compare cultures and ask whether some are more receptive or resistant to change and external influence than others.)

India’s 2014 national elections held in May were a mandate for change. In a record turnout (66.38%), the National Democratic Alliance swept to a “historic victory” taking 336 seats. The Congress Party with Rahul Gandhi as its candidate won a mere 44 seats. What’s more, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) alone won 282 seats (51.9%), ten more than needed for an absolute majority.

What had happened to turn two-thirds of India’s 550 million voters in this election against the ruling Congress Party? Chiefly, two things: the economy (especially high inflation) and, above all, official corruption.

India’s new business-friendly leader, BJP boss Narendra Modi, has vowed to jump-start the economy and root out corruption. Modi is a charismatic figure. As such, he represents a strong contrast to the phlegmatic octogenarian Manmohan Singh who was his predecessor. But he came into office with some troubling baggage—namely a callous disregard for India’s 172 million Muslims (14.2% of the population). As we have seen, India has a history of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims. But his election also holds out the hope of a new dawn in India politics. After all, who better to address the explosive issue of communal violence than a Hindu nationalist leader with a popular mandate for change?