Our democratic BFF in Asia, India, has finally announced the polling dates for the country’s upcoming elections: April 16, April 23, April 30, May 7, and May 13. Why the phased election? Holidays, festivals, possible monsoon weather, harvest season, and most importantly, school examinations. India’s elections will undoubtedly be intense — 714 million eligible voters? 4 million election workers? Oh, it’ll be glorious, you betcha.
Yeah, that’s right. India’s electronic.
As BBC tweeted this news to me, I realized I had no idea how the Indian government is structured. (Shame, isn’t it?) Still, with the Interweb at my fingertips, I decided to compile a little government guide (sans the judicial branch) for my benefit and yours becaues I didn’t want to study. (Yes, yes, I know. An educational blupdate. Exciting!) Read more and get informed!
structure: split executive
- President: Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of India’s armed forces. Generally considered a ceremonial post because the President hardly acts without consent or consult with the Prime Minister. Presidents serve for five-year terms and are elected in a reallyÂ weird way with both State Assemblies and National Parliament voting. I don’t understand how that works yet, but there you go. Pratibha Patil is the current President, and India’s first female president. Girl power, whoo!
- Prime Minister: Head of government, Head of Council of Ministers, leader of the majority party, and appointed by the President. Expected to discharge the powers vested in the President. Manmohan Singh, of the Congressional Party,Â is the country’s first Sikh Prime Minister, a cute bespectacled fellow, and a well-respected former finance minister and economist.
- Council of Ministers: Part of the Upper House in the legislature, 12 members appointed by the President.
Current Prime Minister Singh. Rock on.
structure: bicameral legislature
- Rajya Sabha (“Council of States,” Upper House): 250 members, 12 of whom the President nominates for their expertise in particular fields. The remaining 238 members are elected by state and territorial legislatures through the Single Transferable Vote System. Terms are six years long and a third of members face re-election every two years. The Vice-Presidents is the ex-officio Chairman (currently, Hamid Ansari), but the Deputy Chairman takes care of day-to-day matters. Rajya Sabha is in continuous session and not subject to dissolution like the lower house. Parliamentary superior. Requirements? 30 years old, Indian citizen, mentally sound, not bankrupt, clean record.
- Lok Sabha (“House of the People,” Lower House): Constitution limits LS to 552 members max, with no more than 20 members from the territories and perhaps 2 representatives of the Anglo-Indian community (appointed by the President).Â Members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected. The terms are five years, unless dissolved earlier OR extended by one year increments after the five years. The Speaker not only presides over this house, but the joint sessions with Rajya Sabha as well. Requirements? 25 years old, Indian citizen, mentally sound, not bankrupt, clean record.
structure and election: political parties, what up
India has a coalitional government. Basically, the number of members from the major parties are so equal-ish, that groups are formed to win elections and stuff. Right now, there are two major coalitions the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the National Democratic Front (NDA). Each is led by a major party; the UPA by Congress, and NDA by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These two national parties have a fairly good presence throughout the country. There’s a basket-load of other parties in the mix, representing castes, states, and other groups.
It’s strange — in each state, there are parties more powerful than the ruling Congress or oppositional BJP. South India has many strong parties representing linguistic groups. In the North, there caste-based parties. In West Bengal (representing, y’all!) and Kerala, the Communist Party has a major foothold. (via BBC)
The UPA and NDA coalitions both have candidates… and back-ups (“heir apparents”). Incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (UPA)Â will be turning 80 shortly, and NDA candidate LK Advani is even older. Though India’s growth has slowed a tad to around 5%, it’s still fairly strong and chilled out (“India Retains Optimism and Economic Growth”), Singh will have to battle against charges of mismanagement tossed at him from the BJP. (Sorry for all the acronyms.) LK Advani, on the other, is most famous for, “leading the campaign to have a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Ram built on the site of a mosque demolished in 1992″ (BBC).
Who are the heirs apparent?
MP (Representative) Rahul Gandhi
There’s debonair, charming Rahul Gandhi, a young half-Italian politician famously from the Nehru-Gandhi political line. (Hmm, let’s recap. Great-grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first PM of India. Grandmother was assassinated PM Indira Gandhi. Rahul’s father Rajiv, too, was Prime Minister… and was assassinated. His mother, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi could have been Prime Minister but is instead President of the Congress Party.) Good and all, except Rahul hasn’t shown whether or not he can stand the rough and tough of Indian politics.Â For the NDA, it is the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. Very capable guy, but has a bad rep because of a pogrom (specialized riot) under his watch (or encouragement?) against Muslims in 2002.
election: the possible third front scenario
Any one of three results is possible. The winner could be a coalition headed by the Congress, a coalition headed by the BJP or a Third Front featuring neither. — Ramachandra Guha, Author of Life After Gandhi
In this case, the possible PM candidate is Mayawati, a woman from the Dalit, or formerly untouchable, caste. She’s currently the Chief Minister of the state Uttar Pradesh. She’s loved by the lower class, very in your face, and also tagged with accusations of corruption. Check out her bio on TIME’s Most Influential Indians.
Well,Â there’s that, your brief summary of India and the upcoming election.Â I’m done. Brain hurts from compiling information and I’m hungry, too. Hope you all found it somewhat informative, but don’t ask me how many hours this took. Signing off, it’s Nina Bhattacharya.