Indian Government and Politics
This core political science textbook written for the paper Indian Government and Politics explores the changing nature of politico-constitutional institutions and is drawn from the 1950 Constitution of India.
Provides an analytical account of the political happenings in India and how the political institutions have emerged and changed, since the end of colonial rule in India; Covers areas outlined in the latest UGC Model Curriculum 2000, thus making it a comprehensive textbook in this subject; Offers model questions at the end of the book
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Chapter 1: Salient Features of the Indian Constitution
- Founding Fetters of the Constitution
- The Preamble
- Fundamental Rights
- Fundamental Duties
- Directive Principles of State Policy
- Parliamentary System
- Amending Procedures
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 2: Federalism
- Demystifying Indian Polity
- Federalism in India
- The Federal Arrangement: Its Evolution
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 3: The Executive System in Theory and Practice
- Adopting the Executive System
- The President
- The Prime Minister
- The Council of Ministers
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 4: Parliament
- A Thoughtful Choice
- Limitations/Features of Indian Parliament
- Composition of the Parliament
- Changing Socio-Economic Profile
- Parliamentary Committees
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 5: State Executive
- Features of the State Executive
- Office of the Governor
- Chief Minister
- The Council of Ministers
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 6: The Judiciary
- Perspectives of the Constituent Assembly
- Supreme Court
- High Courts
- Judicial Review
- Public Interest Litigation
- Judicial Activism
- Judicial Reforms
- Union Public Service Commission
- Election Commission
- Comptroller and Auditor General
- Finance Commission
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 7: Planning and Economic Development
- Concept of Planned Development
- Genesis and Development of Planning in India
- Role of the Planning Commission
- Planning in the Era of Liberalization
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 8: Statutory Institutions and Commissions
- National Commission for Backward Classes
- National Commission for Women
- National Human Rights Commission
- National Commission for Minorities
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 9: The Indian Party System
- Evolution of the Indian Party System
- Coalition Governments at the Centre and the States
- Pressure Groups in Indian Politics
- Elites in Indian Party System
- Contemporary Trends in Indian Party System
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 10: The Evolution of Indian Administration
- Genesis of Administration in India
- Aspects of the Mughal Administration
- Legacies of the British Rule
- Developments during the Rule of the Company
- Developments in Indian Administration since 1857
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 11: Panchayati Governance in India
- Local Self-Government in India
- Structure of the Panchayati Raj Institutions
- Powers and Functions of the Panchayats
- Role of Women and other Marginalized Sections of the Society
- Rural Development: Panchayats and the Bureaucracy
- Issues in Effective Functioning of the Panchayats
- Role of Panchayati Raj in the Era of Liberalization
- Concluding Observations
- Chapter 12: Major Issues in Indian Politics
- Mandal II: Reservation for Social Justice or Appropriation by the Creamy Layer?
- Religion and Indian Politics
- Complex Political Texture
- Economic Reforms and Indian Politics
- Deepening of Democracy
- Concluding Observations
Copyright © Bidyut Chakrabarty and Rajendra Kumar Pandey, 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published in 2008 by
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Published by Vivek Mehra for SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd, typeset in 10/12 pt Palatino by Star Compugraphics Private Limited, Delhi and printed at Chaman Enterprises, New Delhi.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Chakrabarty, Bidyut, 1958–
Indian government and politics/Bidyut Chakrabarty, Rajendra Kumar Pandey.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. India—Politics and governement. 2. Constitutional history—India. 3. Public administration—India. I. Pandey, Rajedra Kumar. II. Title
JQ231.C42 320.454—dc22 2008 2008031601
ISBN: 978-81-7829-881-8 (PB)
The SAGE Team: Anjana Saproo, Anupam Choudhury, Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, and Trinankur Banerjee
To our grandparents for the values they inculcated in us.[Page vi]
This book is unique because it has brought out the complexities of the political processes that impinge on the functioning of the constitutionally-guaranteed institutions (besides political institutions, like political parties and pressure groups formed out of civil society initiatives) by drawing on the new theoretical approaches in the field of social sciences. The approach is certainly multidisciplinary because one simply cannot comprehend the nature of Indian politics without understanding ‘the social churning’ that has radically altered its conventional articulation. This is, therefore, a textbook of a different kind in the sense that not only has it dealt with the institutions of Indian politics, it has also identified new areas of research by raising pertinent questions on the nature of Indian politics. Underlining the distinct structural characteristics of Indian politics, this book is also a meaningful intervention in unearthing significant socio-political and economic processes which are critical to the political articulation of governance in India. In view of the acceptance of economic reforms and the growing importance of coalition politics, the book seeks to provide an explanation by referring to those factors which are not easy to articulate given the fluidity of circumstances in which they are enmeshed. What is thus striking about the book is its attempt to draw out the theoretical implications of India's peculiar socio-economic and political processes on the basis of a rigorous empirical investigation of the reality in which ‘political’ is visioned and fashioned.
We are happy to be associated with the SAGE Text Book project. We are thankful to the SAGE management for having introduced the series with our book on Indian politics. Without the personal interest of Sugata Ghosh, Vice President, Commissioning, the project would not have taken off. By her regular e-mails, Ms Anjana Saproo acted as an efficient editor who knows how to get the work done by [Page xii]her authors. We are thankful to both of them. The manuscript would not have reached the press without their initiative and personal care. We are also grateful to Dr Kavita A. Sharma, Principal, and members of the department of Political Science of Hindu College for extending moral support to us from time to time. We gratefully acknowledge the support extended by Dr D.N. Gupta of Hindu College while preparing the manuscript. We also express our gratitude to the staff at the Hindu college library, especially Mr Sanjeev Dutt Sharma, who always remained helpful.
We are thankful to the anonymous readers of the manuscript. Their suggestions were very useful while revising the content of the volume. We are indebted to our students for their critical role in making this work seem worthwhile. Finally, we fondly acknowledge the significant contribution of our families without which it would not have been possible for us to concentrate on our academic pursuits.
India is a unique socio-economic and political mosaic for a variety of complex reasons. One of the important reasons is certainly colonialism that radically altered the region to fulfil its obvious goals in accordance with its basic exploitative character. There is no doubt that colonialism engendered a specific kind of social, economic and political engineering to pursue an objective that ran counter to that of the ruled. Given the definite impact of alien governance of over more than two centuries, it is difficult to gloss over the inevitable consequences that halted the natural growth of this geographical space by various means—means that never took into account the people, for whom colonialism was nothing but naked exploitation. What is interesting to note is the perpetual influence of colonialism even after it became history. Colonialism was not merely an administrative device; it was also a way of life that continued to shape, if not determine, South Asia's socio-economic and political characteristics. This is, however, not to suggest that colonialism by itself became decisive. What we propose to state is that the role of colonialism was decisive in redefining some of the major socio-economic concerns of independent India. Colonialism cannot be undermined. Its influence is visible in all walks of life. Furthermore, one should also stress that some of the specific socio-economic and political characteristics that the region has acquired are also attributed to the fact that the Age of Enlightenment that had an effect on Britain, was a critical influence in India's growth as a nation-state in the aftermath of decolonization. Hence the evolution of India—for that matter, the whole of South Asia—follows a specific route, drawing upon the typical British ‘philosophical’ traditions. Distinct by its focus and [Page xiv]thrust, the British ‘enlightenment’ remained a constant reference point for those involved in struggles against the continued British political hegemony. Not only was the anti-colonial campaign articulated largely in typical ‘liberal’ terms, but the constitutional machinery that struck roots in independent India also had its roots in the Westminster model of democracy. There is, however, a significant sense in saying that the nature of the political and economic institutions that the British had bequeathed has radically changed in the period after decolonization. Nonetheless, the basic point remains that the post-colonial nation-states are rooted in processes in which the importance of British colonialism cannot simply be wished away.
How do we grasp such a complex evolution of an equally complex socio-political entity called India? One has to grapple with this question in a wider perspective keeping in mind the intricate social, economic and political processes that are difficult to disentangle, especially when they are largely enmeshed in reality. As a region, India is a mosaic, drawn on social, political, economic, and cultural diversities. Colonialism further complicates the evolution by bringing in the ‘alien’ influences, both in terms of ideas as well as institutions. For a meaningful understanding of the region and an appropriate conceptualization of the process, one has to grasp its journey from relatively simple pre-colonial to colonial days and finally to the post-colonial era—an era that is not at all, for obvious reasons, identical with the past but a continuity (at least in the immediate aftermath of decolonization) in terms of major governmental institutions and dominant political values informing them.
India is a complex social, economic, political, and cultural formation following a peculiar capitalist development. Imperialism caused significant distortions in India's growth as an economy. Capitalism evolved, not organically but as a midwife of imperialism. Yet, it led to processes of a specific kind of economic development in India in which both class and regional inequality had intensified anger against modernist elite that sought to corner benefits and privileges in the name of democracy. Interestingly, the continuity of democratic governances is also a significant factor that leads to growing participation of the peripheral groups in the construction of the political. Democracy thus encourages new idioms of politics that thrive on the ‘majority’ that remained socially marginalized, economically deprived and politically peripheral due to [Page xv]a peculiar evolution of India in its post-colonial phase. As a result, one can safely infer that contemporary Indian politics is governed by ‘majority syndrome’: majority Hindus as against the Muslims, majority Other Backward Castes (OBCs) as against caste Hindus, and economically deprived majority as against those endorsing the post-1991 economic reforms. Democracy seems to have legitimized the process in two different ways: on the one hand, by creating space for ventilation of grievances, democracy provides a political template for activities which may not have been articulated otherwise—by encouraging the aggrieved (or perhaps disgruntled) groups to utilize this space for their betterment, even notionally; on occasions, it also becomes, on the other hand, a ‘safety valve’ for the system that survives presumably because of its ability to absorb as well as defuse shocks that may appear devastating on occasions.II
There is no doubt that India was an inherited polity due to a peculiar historical legacy connected with the long duration of colonialism. It was difficult to entirely dismantle the institutional foundation of the colonial state in the immediate aftermath of Independence for practical reasons. Hence, there were attempts to sociologically redefine India by resorting to what was characterized in contemporary newspapers as ‘Indianization’ or ‘Nationalization’ of names of places. The purpose was, perhaps, to create ‘a constructed cultural identity’ for the incipient nation in the backdrop of the traumatic partition. As a recently published work1 authenticates, the newly elected members of the United Provinces’ Legislative Assembly felt that ‘what was vital to the preservation of our cultural integrity and national honour [was to correctly spell and pronounce] the proper names of India's towns, rivers etc’ Hence ‘Muttra’ should be ‘Mathura’ and ‘Ganges’, ‘Ganga’. Similarly, attempts at renaming United Provinces as ‘Aryavarta’ were scuttled, perhaps due to its clearly Hindu overtone, by the central leadership of the Indian National Congress. The renaming of United Provinces as Uttar Pradesh was the outcome of a consensus arrived at in a meeting of the Congress members of the Constituent Assembly from this province. In the light of recent spurt of renaming names of cities in contemporary India (‘Calcutta’ replaced by ‘Kolkata’ or renaming [Page xvi]‘Madras’ as ‘Chennai’}, there seems to be a continuity since the exercise is driven by the same concern, namely, seeking to provide a culturally constructed identity in a physical space.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that most of the major political institutions that held India together were rooted in the colonial rule. Yet, Indian democracy evolved into a unique system of governance that never corresponded with its colonial counterpart for a variety of complex social, economic, and political reasons. Here we must address two questions: (a) what is an institution? (b) what political institutions does a large-scale democracy require? Institutions are patterns of recurring acts structured in a manner conditioning the behaviour of members within the institutions, shaping a particular value or set of values, and projecting the values in social systems in terms of attitudes or acts. Institutions that are relevant to political systems are those that share in any measure in the formation or use of public power. In regard to the second question, Robert Dahl informs that a large-scale democracy requires six political institutions, which are (a) elected political executive; (b) free, fair, and frequent elections; (c) freedom of expression; (d) alternative sources of information; (e) associational autonomy; and (f) inclusive citizenship.2 Drawn on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America,3 Dahl thus argues that democracy became organic to the American society simply because ‘the institutions [which are fundamental to democracy] are deeply planted and pervasive’.4
Conceptually, Dahl's model is meaningful in the sense that these political institutions are critical to any democratic system. What is important to remember is, however, the fact that they hardly remain static because their evolution is linked with the socio-economic milieu in which they are located. Here, the Indian experiment is a significant input to our theorization on democracy as part of the complex political process. It is true that the colonial rule created some of the major political institutions for democracy in a society that was still governed by non-liberal values. So, the task that the nationalist leadership undertook immediately after Independence was a difficult one because it involved blending of tradition with modernity, customs with laws, to bring reason to prevail over superstitions, and reconcile issues of faith with demands of modern administration and governance. The most daunting issue that new [Page xvii]rulers had to address concerned the age-old social, economic, and political exclusion of a significant segment of India's population. A careful look at the evolution of institutions in India clearly shows that they evolved creatively to adjust to the changing circumstances. The Westminster model of parliamentary democracy that India adopted was not a clone but one that took into account the situation-specific ethos and the existent socio-cultural milieu. Furthermore, the changing socio-economic profile of the legislative assemblies and the national Parliament is also indicative of a trend towards a genuinely inclusive democracy. With the growing politicization of the peripheral sections of society, the elite-centric governance is fading away with the consolidation of people-centric governance. Acceptance of polls as the only device to change political authority is an eloquent testimony to the depth of the democratic processes, which are articulated in various forms other than periodic elections.III
The making of the Indian Constitution is an interesting chapter in independent India's political history for a variety of reasons. Not only was the Constitution an outcome of deliberations on the floor of the Constituent Assembly, it also acquired a clear centralized bias reflective of the trauma of the 1947 partition. Furthermore, while the Constitution is a continuity (at least in structural and procedural terms), there is a clear break from the past since the Constitution seeks to articulate the political in decolonized India. There can be no greater evidence of the spirit of accommodation and reconciliation, and commitment to constitutionalism and rule of law on the part of the founding fathers than the Constitution that they framed despite serious difficulties in the wake of transfer of population following the vivisection of the subcontinent. The commitment to liberal democratic values, as the Constituent Assembly proceedings suggest, remained paramount in the making of the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly was set up as a result of negotiations between the nationalist leaders and the members of the Cabinet Mission over the possible constitutional arrangement in the post-war India. The Assembly was elected by the members of the provincial legislative assemblies. The Congress secured an [Page xviii]overwhelming majority in the general seats while the Muslim League had a clear sweep in almost all the reserved seats. There also were members from the Scheduled Caste Federation, Communist Party of India, and the Unionist Party (located in Punjab). The Muslim League boycotted the Assembly when it began, and following the partition, a large chunk of the League members, elected from the Muslim-majority provinces, left for Pakistan. Only twenty-eight members of the Muslim League joined the Assembly. As a result, the Assembly ceased to become ‘Indian’, presumably because of the overrepresentation of the Congress, which constituted almost 82 per cent of its total members. The Assembly thus became ‘a one-party body in an essentially one-party country’. Was it possible to make the Assembly more democratic in those circumstances? The answer is invariably ‘no’ for two reasons: first, the Congress was the only political party that had a widespread network across the country due to its historical role in the nationalist struggle; and second, the electoral process could not have produced a representative body because the franchise that followed the Sixth Schedule of the 1935 Government of India Act, was highly restricted. Furthermore, the Congress was not a party in the narrow sense of the term; it became an umbrella organization representing the country as a whole as ‘the Congress has’, argued Nehru, ‘within its fold many groups, widely differing in their viewpoints and ideologies [which made the Congress] the mirror of the nation’.5
Indian Constitution was born, notes Paul Brass,6 ‘more in fear and trepidation than in hope and inspiration’. There is hardly a strong argument to dispute this proposition presumably because of the context in which the Assembly began and concluded its proceedings. It began its deliberations on 9 December 1946 and concluded the same with the passage of the Constitution on 24 January 1950. This period, slightly over three years, was one in which the joy of freedom was severely marred by national trauma associated with the partition and violence that resulted in the killing of the Mahatma, besides the butchering of innocent people in the wake of the transfer of population in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of freedom. The Constitution was thus a pragmatic response to the reality that the Assembly confronted while drawing the roadmap for free India. The founding fathers practised ‘the art of the possible and never allowed [their ideological cause] to blind them to reality’.7
[Page xix]Despite being appreciative of India's pluralistic social texture, there was a near unanimity among the Assembly members for a strong state. Even those who were critical of the Emergency provisions had defended a centralized state to contain tendencies threatening the integrity of the country. Emergency provisions in the Constitution were justified because ‘disorder’ or ‘misgovernance’ endangers India's existence as ‘a territorial state’. Such concerns could only have reflected, argues Paul Brass,8 ‘another kind of continuity’ between the new governing elite and the former British rulers, namely ‘an attitude of distrust’ of the ordinary politicians of the country and ‘a lack of faith’ in the ability of the newly-franchised population to check ‘the misdeeds’ of their elected rulers. Nonetheless, the fear of ‘disorder’ was probably the most critical factor in favour of the arguments for a centralized state despite its clear incompatibility with the cherished ideal of the nationalist leaders for a federal state. B.R. Ambedkar's contradictory stances on federalism, for instance, thus may appear whimsical, independent of the circumstances. In 1939, Ambedkar was clearly in favour of a federal form of government for its political viability in socio-culturally diverse India. By 1946, he provided a radically different view by saying, ‘I like a strong united Centre, much stronger than the Centre we had created under the Government of India Act of 1935’.9 While presenting the final report of the Union Powers Committee, he unequivocally declared:
We are unanimously of the view that it would be injurious to the interest of the country to provide for a weak central authority which would be incapable of ensuring peace, of coordinating vital matters of common concern and of speaking effectively for the whole country in the international sphere.10
As evident, federalism did not appear to be an appropriate structural form of governance in the light of the perceived threats to the existence of the young Indian nation. Hence, the Constitution-makers recommended a strong Centre because the constitutional design of a country is meant to serve the normative-functional requirements of governance. The Constitution was to reflect an ideology of governance regardless of whether or not it articulates the highly cherished ideals of the freedom struggle that a majority of the Assembly members nurtured while participating in the freedom struggle. As G.L. Mehta believed: ‘We have to build up the [Page xx]system on the conditions of our country [and] not on any abstract theories’.11 In the same tune, A.K. Ayyar argued, ‘Our constitutional design is relative to the peculiar conditions obtaining here, according to the peculiar exigencies of our country [and] not according to a prior or theoretical considerations’.12 In the making of the Constitution for governance, they were guided more by their views on statecraft which would surely have been different without the traumatic experience preceding the inauguration of the Constitution in 1950. Hence, one can safely suggest that ‘hard-headed pragmatism and not abstract governmental theories’ was what guided ‘the architects of our Constitution’.
The Constituent Assembly debates are a useful guide to understand the processes that finally culminated in the making of the 1950 Constitution. Yet, it was not the entire Assembly that wrote the document. It was clearly the hard work ‘of the government wing of the Congress, and not the mass party’ and the brunt of the task fell upon ‘the Canning Lane Group [because] they lived while attending Assembly sessions on Canning Lane’.13 There is another dimension of the functioning of the Assembly that is also instructive. According to Granville Austin, Indian's constitutional structure is perhaps ‘a good example’ of decision-making by consensus and accommodation, which he defends by examining the debates on various provisions of the Constitution. Scholars, however, differ because given the Congress hegemony in the Assembly, views held by the non-Congress members were usually bulldozed. As S.K. Chaube argued that at least on two major issues—political minorities and language—both these principles were conveniently sacrificed. As regards political minority, there was no consensus and the solution to the language was, as Austin himself admits ‘a half-hearted compromise’.14 By dubbing the Assembly as ‘a packed house’, the shrunk Muslim League expressed the feeling of being alienated from the house. Even Ambedkar underlined the reduced importance of the Assembly since on a number of occasions, as he admitted, ‘they had to go to another place to obtain a decision and come to the Assembly’.
Decision by consensus may not be an apt description of the processes of deliberation. But, as the proceedings show, there was near unanimity on most occasions, and divisions of opinion among the Congress party members, who constituted a majority, were sorted out politically. As Shiva Rao informs, on a number of controversial [Page xxi]issues, efforts were made to eliminate, or, at least, to minimize differences through informal meetings of the Congress party's representatives in the Constituent Assembly. If the informal discussion failed to resolve the differences ‘the Assembly leadership … exercised its authority formally by the Party Whip’.15
Two important points emerge out of the preceding discussions: first, the making of the Indian Constitution was a difficult exercise, not only because of the historical context but also due to the peculiar social texture of the Indian reality that had to be translated in the Constitution. The collective mind in the Assembly was defensive as a consequence of rising tide of violence taking innocent lives immediately after partition. Second, the founding fathers seem to have been obsessed with their ‘own notion of integrated national life’. The aim of the Constitution was to provide ‘an appropriate ordering framework’ for India. As Rajendra Prasad unequivocally declared on the floor of the Assembly, ‘Personally I do not attach any importance to the label which may be attached to it—whether you call it a Federal Constitution or a Unitary Constitution or by any other name. It makes no difference so long as the Constitution serves our purpose’.16 On the whole, a unitary mind produced ‘an essentially unitary constitution doused with a sprinkling of permissive power for a highly supervised level of constituent units’.17IV
The changed socio-economic reality is reflected in the composition of the Indian Parliament, just like the state legislative assemblies. It is obvious because parliaments are essentially political institutions with organic roots in the constantly changing social milieu. The role of the political parties is also immensely important in articulating changes on issues and goals. With the growing consolidation of coalition politics, parties seem to have learnt the art of reconciling ‘divergent and incompatible interests in such a manner as not to ruin the coalition’. The party system has also been transformed as a result of a social revolution that has brought more castes and classes into the political arena, some with their own political parties. It is most revealing with the rise of the backward castes, which, for instance, now account for approximately 25 per cent of the Lok Sabha in contrast to a mere 5 per cent of the seats in 1950. [Page xxii]This is largely the outcome of the political mobilization of these caste groups through the 1990s by parties that could be loosely described as ‘offspring of the Janata Dal of yesteryears, including Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar’.18 No longer is it characterized by a dominant party embodying a centrist consensus with rightist and leftist parties on the margins. It was possible for the Congress to continue presumably because it drew on what is defined as ‘consensual political culture’ that consisted in developing a definitely plural style of living endorsing ‘bouquet approach’ in contrast with ‘the extreme melting pot model’. The one party dominance that we often talk of was, in fact, the result of the Congress itself evolving as a coalition. Throughout the period of its dominance, the real strength of the Congress party was ‘not its ideological or programmatic orientation or its performance in providing good governance, [but its] coalitional and consensual character which made it an alliance of different castes, communities and minorities’.19 Not only is the share of votes and parliamentary seats of the Congress on decline, it is also suffering terribly due a leadership vacuum. It is ‘no longer the party that binds state and society by providing the framework within which a heterogeneous mass of ideologies and interests can be reconciled and arbitrated into consensus’.20 There is now a highly regionalized and fragmented multi-party system, with only a brief interlude of a tendency towards a two-party system during the 1977–80 when the two major contenders, the Janata party and the Congress, shared more than 70 per cent of the votes between themselves. This is attributed to the ‘extreme social and regional diversity in India and the federal component of the government’ under a hybrid system of parliamentary federalism. These features remained peripheral under the hegemonic Congress system largely due to the past momentum of the freedom struggle and the hegemonic influence of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. In recent years, especially since the 1977 national poll, the growing importance of regionalism and ethnic ascendancy have redefined the emerging contour of India's federalism by emphasizing ‘legislative federalism’. National parties have tended to fragment, regional parties have tended to mushroom, and smaller parties have acquired political salience due to the fragile nature of the coalitions in which they gain importance disproportionate to their size presumably because of their role in providing adequate numerical support to the shaky coalitions. Despite all these [Page xxiii]weaknesses, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition survived a full term and dissolved the Parliament according to its priority.V
Today, there is a growing realization that coalition politics reinforces the federal texture of Indian polity. With the rising importance of regional political parties, the state-centric issues have gained remarkable salience presumably because of the compulsion of coalition politics. So, the emergence of regional parties as serious stakeholders of the system has translated political pluralism in its true spirit. In this sense, increasing salience of the parties with roots and support in the region contributes to a process of what we call ‘regionalization of national politics’ and ‘nationalization of regional politics’.
A new phase of political articulation has begun that is indicative of regionalization of national politics. In the context of the coalition political culture, three changes are immediately evident: (a) the regionalization of politics; (b) growth of new social constituencies; and (c) the changing terms of political discourse. All three have contributed to important structural changes in the political realm. In south and north-east India, these changes are articulated in regional terms—in West Bengal and Kerala, they are sometimes represented in explicit class terms; in North India, particularly in the Hindi heartland (UP and Bihar), new social constituencies find expression along caste lines. The conspicuous factor in all these is a desire for greater voice of the socially peripheral but demographically preponderant groups in public policy and political processes—processes that excluded aspiring groups from the centralized power structure fashioned by the Congress since the early 1970s. The propensity towards such a politics is linked to the retreat of the state and its failure to engender radical changes in the conditions of social existence.
Regional parties are now crucial in the continuity of the ruling party in power at the Centre. The prominent role that many regional parties played in the formation of the NDA and in jockeying for power in the aftermath of the elections ‘created an impression of regionalization of the national political arenas’.21 For decades, [Page xxiv]small and regional parties were decried by all parties especially the Congress as ‘parochial’. They were accused of ‘deepening social and regional divisions’. In the political culture of single-party dominance, they were dubbed as ‘destabilizing forces’. The national politics that pitted the ‘nation’ against the ‘regions’ has accorded a legitimate space to the regional and vernacular elite, and they cannot be ignored in the new dispensation of political power in India. In other words, with voters’ preference for local issues, the political system is forced to structure the process of governance around a coalition of small and regional parties, which, incidentally, happens to be a coalition mostly composed of middle and lower castes in the social hierarchy. This necessity forced the acceptance of a more federal system of governance (in regional and social terms) than was ever achieved by the proponents of states’ rights earlier. The occasional hiccups in the ruling coalition following the reported threat of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in 2001 demonstrate the extent to which the constituents of the coalition are significant. The erstwhile NDA coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has survived despite fluid and highly volatile political scenario. The net result of the last national poll in 2004 is however that the Indian variety of coalition provides a rather ‘moderate’ form of government in which large national parties have been forced to accept the need for alliances and accommodations with a variety of new and old parties, including the regional parties. Brushing aside the so-called ideological purity, what brings the partners together and largely sustains the coalition is ‘the exigency of the situation’. Despite the short duration of the two earlier successive coalition governments at the Centre, the continuity of the NDA and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments for almost full term is indicative of a significant change in India's political texture by making coalition inevitable. The presence of the region on the national scene is illustrative of a process of empowerment of various communities, hitherto peripheral. One of the reasons for the growing importance of regional parties is certainly their success in articulating the interests of the assertive backward castes and Dalits. These parties remain ‘regional’ in terms of geographic location but are national in terms of issues that they raise, which are relevant to the country as a whole. The growing importance of regional parties in the national coalition is also indicative of a more competitive and polarized party system. [Page xxv]Democracy is indeed moving closer to the people. The NDA and its successor UPA are therefore powerful experiments in federalism and coalition politics in India. What it suggests is not merely the decline of one party and rise of the regional and smaller parties but a crisis of majoritarian political culture which is based on the dominance of a single party led by a charismatic leader.VI
A perusal of the 2004 Lok Sabha poll results underlines an interesting trend supporting the formation of coalition. Four national parties—the Congress, the BJP, the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI (M)—have captured 336 (62 per cent) of the 543 seats in Lok Sabha with 56 per cent of the votes polled. The three major alliances—the Congress-led UPA, the NDA, and the Left Front—succeeded in 479 (88 per cent) constituencies with 80 per cent of the votes polled. So, votes are not as fragmented as they are made to be. What is identified as a fractured mandate is indicative of the failure of the parties or alliances to consolidate the mandate. A carefully planned seat arrangement in a pre-poll structured or loose alliance avoiding division of votes has not only led to consolidation of votes but also helped the parties to gain dividends. It means that different permutations and combinations of parties will ensure the magic number in Parliament in which state-based and regional parties will play crucial roles, given the gradual decline of the pan-Indian parties. The process seems to have been accelerated with the growing importance of the socially marginalized sections in the formation and functioning of the government. India's socio-cultural diversities, earlier represented in the social coalition that the Congress put together for more than four decades in the aftermath of Independence, may gradually be reflected in ‘a changing collage of political coalition’.
Building upon the politicization of social cleavages and the diminishing appeal of the Congress, the formation of non-Congress governments in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh after the 1993–95 State Assembly elections brought to an end the Congress system which had dominated Indian politics during the first three decades after Independence. The decline of the highly centralized Congress party has resulted in decentring of politics and has shifted its centre of gravity from New Delhi to [Page xxvi]the states. This has generated considerable interest in post-Congress politics in the states and in the larger social and economic conditions and political processes that have made for these transitions. Thus India is now increasingly approximating the continental Europe where coalition governments are a recurring feature.
Besides a comprehensive introduction, Indian Government and Politics has twelve thematically organized chapters focusing on both the structure and processes of governance in India. The unique contribution that this book makes is in understanding how the Indian government is articulated politically by involving stakeholders at different levels. Hence, the chapters do not merely describe the constitutional structures of power; they also analyse and elaborate these structures with reference to the constantly changing socioeconomic and political milieu. By highlighting the landmark features of the constitutional arrangement, the book also seeks to draw readers to a Constitution that is being regularly reinvented to take care of new socio-political demands. For instance, chapter 7 (Planning and Economic Development) and chapter 11 (Panchayati Governance in India) deal with centralized planning and the gradual rise of decentralized governance respectively, by taking into account the changing nature of planning and Panchayati Raj institutions in the context of globalization. Similarly, the last chapter on major issues in Indian politics seeks to provoke a debate among students on issues that are critical in grasping contemporary India. Suggesting that these issues are not sacrosanct but contextually-drawn because of their overwhelming importance in shaping Indian government and politics in recent years, the aim is also to sustain the debate by adding new inputs out of the lived experiences of those who are instrumental in relocating its ‘centre of gravity’.
The book stands out not only as a piece of literature but also as a student-friendly exercise. Hence, each chapter begins with ‘Learning Objectives’ and comes with ‘Model Questions’. The aim here is: first, to introduce the readers to the text of the chapter by highlighting the major points, and second, to confirm the extent to which they have internalized what they have learnt through their responses to the model questions. In this sense, this exercise is ‘a class by itself’, because it provides, on the one hand, an analytical narrative of Indian government and politics, and on the other, prepares the students for further research by raising pertinent questions on the principal theme.[Page xxvii]Notes
1. See Kudaisya 2006: 351–59.
2. See Dahl 2005: 188.
3. See Tocqueville 1966.
4. Ibid.: 190.
5. See Nehru 1948: 139.
6. See Brass 2000: 60.
7. See Austin 1999: 21.
8. See Brass 2002: 2132.
9. See Constituent Assembly 1946: 102.
10. See Constituent Assembly 1947a: 79.
12. See Constituent Assembly 1947b: 839.
13. See Austin 1999: 317.
14. Ibid.: 264–307.
15. Ibid.: 315.
16. Rajendra Prasad's statement, made after the Constitution was inaugurated on 26 January 1950. See The Times of India 1950.
17. See Bhattacharya 1992: 103.
18. See Jayal 2006: 187.
19. See Kashyap 1999.
20. See Mehta 1997: 57.
21. See Behera 1999.References1999. The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation. New Delhi: Oxford University Press..1999. ‘Regions Become Equal Partners’, The Statesman, Kolkata, 15 October..1992. ‘The Mind of the Founding Fathers’, in NirmalMukarji and BalveerArora (eds), Federalism in India: Origins and Development. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House..2000. ‘The Strong State and the Fear of Disorder’, in Francine R.Frankel, ZoyaHasan, RajeevBhargava and BalveerArora (eds), Transforming India: Social and Political Dynamics of Democracy. New Delhi: Oxford University Press..2002. ‘India, Myron Weiner and the Political Science of Development’, Economic and Political Weekly, 20 July..Constituent Assembly. 1946. Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume I. New Delhi: Government of India.Constituent Assembly. 1947a. Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume V. New Delhi: Government of India.Constituent Assembly. 1947b. Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume XI. New Delhi: Government of India.[Page xxviii]2005. ‘What Political Institutions Does Large-Scale Democracy Require?’Political Science Quarterly, 120 (2, Summer). http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.1538-165X.2005.tb00543.x.2006. Representing India: Ethnic Diversity and the Governance of Public Institution. London: Palgrave. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230626362.1999. ‘Coalition Constraints: Benefits of NDA's Inclusive Strategy’, The Times of India, 11 December.2006. Region, Nation, ‘Heartland’: Uttar Pradesh in India's Body Politics. New Delhi: Sage Publications..1997. ‘India: Fragmentation Amid Consensus’, Journal of Democracy, 8(1), January. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/jod.1997.00071948. Unity of India. London: Lindsay Drummond..The Times of India. 1950. 29 January.1966. Democracy in America. London and Glasgow: Fontana..
The primary aim of this book is to lay out the broad contours of Indian politics, which are constantly changing for obvious reasons. Most of the political institutions have their roots in colonialism and yet they are radically transformed in course of time as they have evolved organically with Indian political system. Indian Constitution is, for instance, a document that hardly bears any similarity, at least in spirit, with the 1935 Government of India Act, which provided the basic institutional foundation to the 1950 Constitution of independent India. ‘Our defiantly democratic constitution’, thus argues Amartya Sen, unfolds ‘in defiance of the standard understanding in the world of what is or is not feasible in a country with such overwhelming poverty and massive illiteracy’.1 As a living document, the constitutional provisions are being regularly revisited by the judiciary in response to the changing socioeconomic milieu without disturbing its T?asic structure’ that has never been articulated in clear terms. Presumably because of the obvious difficulty in exactly spelling out the basic structure of the Constitution, which is relative to the socio-economic circumstances, the judiciary seems to have avoided doing so. Nonetheless, in its various judgements, the Supreme Court of India elaborated the concept keeping in view the contingent circumstances responsible for judicial intervention.
Defined as ‘the bedrock of constitutional interpretation in India’,2 the basic structure debate that began with the 1973 Keshvanand Bharati case redefined the constitutional discourse in India. In this oft-quoted case, the Supreme Court of India restricted the parliamentary domain with the argument that any constitutional amendment, even if enacted under procedures laid down under Article 368 of the Constitution, could be declared invalid if it violated ‘the basic structure of the Constitution’. Through its judgement, [Page 330]the Supreme Court ‘constructed a dyke’, argues Arun Shourie, ‘to shield the country and the citizen from the political class’.3 This is a significant judgement in two respects: first, it reiterates the caution of the founding fathers that the Parliament in India is not as supreme as it is in the Westminster system of governance, except during emergency. Second, the critical principles that hold the Constitution in its true spirit can never be sacrificed under any circumstances. Parliamentary supremacy is appreciated within the political format of parliamentary democracy which upholds ‘federalism’ as ‘a life wire’ of Indian polity. One can tinker with these foundational values of the Constitution only at the cost of its basic structure.
There is a serious problem of interpretation of what constitutes the basic structure because the Supreme Court itself stressed that ‘the claim of any particular feature of the Constitution to be a basic feature would be determined by the Court in each case that comes before it’.4 So these basic features are not ‘finite’ although the Court identifies a number of features—the supremacy of the Constitution, parliamentary democracy, the principle of separation of powers, the independence of judiciary, and the limited amending powers of Parliament—as basic features. What the doctrine therefore amounts to is that there are some features in the Constitution that are more T?asic’ or ‘fundamental’ than others. While the Constitution can be amended by following the stipulated procedures, these features which are basic to the Constitution can never be altered presumably because amendment to these radically alter the nature of the Constitution.
Two important points that emerge out of the discussion on the basic structure need to be addressed. First, the debate seeks to strike a balance between judiciary and Parliament by redefining parliamentary supremacy as ‘relative’ to the circumstances. Under no circumstances, the Parliament is empowered to challenge the foundational values since they are so integral to the evolution of India as a parliamentary democracy. Second, by seeking to provide a contextual interpretation of the basic structure, the apex court draws our attention to the organic nature of the Constitution that evolves in conjunction with the rapidly changing socio-economic and political circumstances. Conceptually, the idea of basic structure is not sacrosanct, but is not amenable to change if circumstances so require. An example will suffice here. The federalism that the [Page 331]founding fathers preferred was articulated as a scheme of distribution of power between two layers of government—one at the Union level and other at the provincial levels. The Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Amendment Acts, in fact, altered the basic structure of the Constitution by introducing ‘a third tier’ besides the Union and states and was therefore ‘violative’ of the basic structure. The introduction of a third tier is a striking distortion in the prevalent two-tier structure of governance because this change is in the direction of greater federalism than what exists. However, these amendments were appreciated for having translated the notion of ‘democratic decentralization’ into practice and are thus reflective of the organic nature of the Constitution. Similarly, the introduction of the terms, like ‘socialism’ and ‘secularism’ (though the former considerably lost its salience with the adoption of the 1991 New Economic Policy) did not disrupt the basic structure simply because these changes evidently commanded ‘general assent’. What is thus critical is the fact that the values of the constitutional structure that are considered ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental’ are not entirely sacrosanct, but are amenable to change if it is absolutely necessary to keep pace with the social, political, and economic milieu.5 Although the basic structure doctrine creates a contentious space, it nonetheless has struck ‘a balance, if an uneasy one,…between the responsibilities of Parliament and the Supreme Court for protection of integrity of the seamless web [of constitutional democracy in India]’.6 Nonetheless, supporters and detractors of the basic structure doctrine are clearly divided: critics see it as judicial usurpation of democratic sovereignty and thus an assault on parliamentary supremacy; while the supporters welcome the doctrine as ‘a necessary check on parliamentary majorities bent on jeopardizing democratic freedoms and as a legitimate pressure on the state [to adopt] ameliorating policies for the vulnerable sections of society [conforming to] the Directive Principles of the Part IV of the Constitution’.7
Illustrative here is parliamentary-federalism which is not merely a constitutional structure, but also provides an ideological foundation to cement a bond among Indian constituent states which are diverse on various counts. In this sense, it is basic to the politico-constitutional structure that evolved in India since the Constitution was adopted in 1950. Especially in the coalition era, parliamentary democracy in India is redefined with the growing federalization that began with the decimation of Congress rule in [Page 332]various states in the 1967 State Assembly election. The scene was completely different during the heydays of the ‘Congress system’ when the Congress party controlled all the state governments as well as the Union. What was symptomatic in 1967 seems to be a well-entrenched pattern now with the clear political ascendance of the constituent provinces, governed mainly by parties with regional roots. The leading members of either of the major coalitions at the pan-Indian level can afford to ignore them only at their political peril. In the changed political texture of India, parliamentary-federalism seems to be a creative politico-constitutional response to a situation that is hardly comparable. Because of its historical roots, parliamentary-federalism also provides perhaps the only mechanism that reconciles the seemingly contradictory tendencies between parliamentary and federal forms of government.
India's social landscape has also undergone radical changes. With the growing participation of peripheral social groups in the political decision-making, the nature of politics has naturally undergone dramatic changes. In the context of second democratic resurgence, one needs to redefine the contour of India's democracy and its articulation by those involved in this process. What facilitate the increasing role of the socially marginalized sections of society are certainly regular elections that act as a leveller by according equal importance to those historically disadvantaged groups. The higher levels of participation of these groups account for political fragmentation in India that is also reflective of social conflicts at the grassroots. The outcome is two-fold: first, this resulted in the decline of the Congress party and also ‘the Congress system’. It was increasingly felt that the Congress no longer represented the cross-sections of social, economic, and political interests especially after the formation of the non-Congress governments in various states following the 1967 polls. The other significant outcome is the growing importance of ‘coalition’ on the basis of common minimum programmes. There is no doubt that the strength of coalition governments is rooted in whether they are built around stable social coalitions. Because they are constituted by parties representing diverse social interests, these coalition governments can ignore them only at their peril. Hence, the presence of the regional and state-based parties accords a wider basis to the governmental policies by providing inputs from the areas and regions [Page 333]to which they belong. In view of the indispensable role of these smaller parties, coalition governments are also an institutional device for participation of the hitherto marginalized sections in the policy process. Unlike the European states which are more or less uniform ethno-linguistically and thus culturally, the Indian version of coalition is a significant contribution to democracy by locating the experiment in an essentially multicultural society. So coalition is complementary to democratic processes, articulated not only in the ritualistic participation of the people in elections, but also in their day-to-day participation in the governmental activities. In this fundamental sense, coalitions are unavoidable, and cannot be wished away as mere ripples. The five-year tenure of the erstwhile government-led by the NDA, and the assumption of power by the UPA in New Delhi, are illustrative of a trend that is not purely coincidental.
Similar to society, Indian economy is no longer the same as it was under the Nehruvian state-directed model of development. With the onset of macroeconomic reforms in the 1990s, the state-led developmental plans seem to have lost significance in a situation where the non-state actors grew in importance in redefining the state agenda. India has adopted reforms in perhaps a very guarded manner. One probably cannot simply wish away the theoretical justification of state intervention in a transitional economy. Reasons are plenty. Socialist principles may not have been forgotten, but the importance of the state in social sector cannot be minimized unless a meaningful alternative is mooted. This is reflected in the obvious distortions in India's economy. On the basis of an empirical study of Andhra Pradesh and other supporting data, Francine R. Frankel thus argues that ‘two economies—one affluent and the other predominantly agricultural economy—are emerging … and this division can be seen across the social and regional landscape of India’.8 The technology-based export-oriented and city-centric economy is flourishing in the new economic environment while the agricultural economy remains backward, and those associated with this have little expectation of a better future and remain preoccupied with the daily struggle to secure a livelihood.
It is evident that Indian politics cannot be conceptualized, let alone comprehended, in a straitjacketed formula because of the well-entrenched peculiarities due to an equally peculiar evolution [Page 334]of her socio-economic and political circumstances. There is no doubt that the political system that India inherited after decolonization was largely drawn on the Westminster model. Yet it underwent significant changes that hardly had resemblance with the British system of governance. Here lies the importance of the socioeconomic processes that shaped the evolution of the political which was clearly distinct in terms of both manifestation and articulation. It was not therefore surprising that ‘three different languages of politics, namely, modern, traditional, and saintly’9 seem relevant in politics. The Congress remained the meeting points of these languages. As Jawaharlal Nehru mentioned, ‘The Congress has within its fold many groups, widely differing in their viewpoints and ideologies. This is natural and inevitable if the Congress is to be the mirror of the nation.’10 In the post-1967 period, the scene changed radically with the gradual weakening of the Congress in sustaining the base that it had consolidated immediately after Independence. Coalition governments at the Centre and various provinces in India are undoubtedly the immediate offshoot of the disappearance of a single-party rule. One also traces the root of coalition governments in the fractured mandates in both the 1999 and 2004 national polls. This suggests, inter alia, the changing social constituencies of the parties. It is thus perfectly possible to conceive of circumstances when a particular social group/or class is represented by various political parties. Hence the argument drawn on ‘a stable social base’ for a party or a group of parties may not always be tenable. And also conversely, it is perfectly logical to challenge the notion of ‘traditional vote banks’ when several parties are vying for the same vote bank championing more or less similar issues despite ‘the ideological differences’ among themselves. What is striking is the fact that not all of the parties jostling for social constituencies succeed uniformly, and this is where lies the explanation as to why a party ‘shines’ and other do not under specific circumstances. Coalition is perhaps the best possible theoretical construct to articulate ‘this moment’ in Indian politics when political processes do not appear to be ‘unidirectional’ at all. This is a moment that not only captures the trends towards redefining Indian politics but also identifies its determinants in the changed domestic and global, and social and economic milieu. Indian politics is both coalitional and regionalized. As the successive poll results show, gone are the days [Page 335]of a single-party rule. The thirteenth Lok Sabha is illustrative of the stupendous achievement of the NDA in sustaining a spirit of consensus among as many as twenty-four heterogeneous parties which were united only in their basic opposition to the Congress. The process that began in the 1967 State Assembly elections seems to have struck roots in the Indian soil in view of the success of the NDA government in completing a full term of five years in power despite occasional hiccups. The fourteenth Lok Sabha poll in 2006 confirms the trend with the formation of another coalition government, led by the UPA.
The change is reflected in India's political economy. With the acceptance of the socialistic pattern of society as the espoused goal of the political elites that took over power immediately after Independence, the Soviet model of state-directed economic development was preferred. And, the centralized planning was uncritically accepted by the leadership as perhaps the only device to bring about an all-round economic development in India that however remained a distant dream. The Indian Planning Commission, the sole institution in allocating funds to the constituent provinces, continued to be guided by ethos and values that became irrelevant in the changed socio-economic and political milieu. As a result, ‘the Planning Commission, that body of experts capable of interpreting and implementing the interests of the nation outside the domain of politics, had been reduced to a mere advisory committee’.11 The interventionist state failed to attain the aspired goal and yet the state-centric model of development has not been altogether done away with presumably because of a powerful political opinion seeking to redefine India's political economy in a creative manner. Despite its complete success in regulating Indian public governance, the neo-liberal economic reform has undoubtedly unleashed a process which is revolutionary in so far as the domain of state is concerned. Hence the economic liberalization in India is not simply about the renegotiation of India's relationships with the global capital, nor does it confine to the relationships of private capital with the Indian state in the formal economy; economic liberalization is also about ‘the reworking of the state itself and of the state's capacity to work on behalf of those who stand outside the (expanding) Indian social and economic elites’.12[Page 336]Notes
1. See Sen 2007.
2. For details of the 1973 Keshvanand Bharati case, see Austin 1999: 258–77.
3. See Shourie 2007: 194.
4. See Somnath Chatterjee's foreword in Chopra 2006: 13.
5. This discussion is drawn on Iyer 2006: 2066–68.
6. See Austin 1999: 652.
7. See Mehta 2002: 180.
8. See Frankel 2005: 625.
9. W.H. Morris-Jones elaborates these three languages in Indian politics at length in his The Government and Politics of India. See Morris-Jones 1974: 52–64.
10. See Nehru 1948: 139.
11. See Corbridge and Harriss 2001: 67.
12. Ibid.: 169.References1999. Working a Democratic Constitution: A History of the Indian Experience. New Delhi: Oxford University Press..2006. ‘Foreword’, in PranChopra (ed.), The Supreme Court Versus the Constitution: A Challenge to Federalism. New Delhi: Sage Publications..2001. Reinventing India: Liberalization, Hindu Nationalism and Popular Democracy. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.and .2005. India's Political Economy, 1947–2004. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.2006. ‘Some Constitutional Dilemmas’, Economic and Political Weekly, XLI(21): 2066–68.2002. ‘The Inner Conflict of Constitutionalism: Judicial Review and the “Basic Structure”’, in ZoyaHasan, E.Sridharan and R.Sudarshan (eds), India's Living Constitution: Ideas, Practices and Controversies. New Delhi: Permanent Black..1974. The Government and Politics of India. New Delhi: B.I. Publications.1948. The Unity of India. London: Lindsay Drummond..2007. ‘India in the World’, The Hindu, 15 August..2007. The Parliamentary System: What We Have Made of It, What We Can Make of It. New Delhi: Rupa..
Model Questions[Page 337]Chapter 1: Salient Features of the Indian Constitution
[Page 339]Chapter 2: Federalism
- Discuss the role of the Indian Constitution as an instrument of socio-economic progress.
- Examine the various philosophies which influenced the Constitution-makers in framing the Indian Constitution.
- ‘The Constitution is more “political” and less “legal”’. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer.
- How do you characterize the Indian Constitution? Elaborate your answer.
- ‘The amending procedures, crafted thoughtfully by the fathers of the Indian Constitution, provide one of the best methods to make the Constitution long-lasting by making it both sufficiently flexible and rigid.’ Comment.
- ‘An analysis of the salient features of the Indian Constitution amply makes it clear that it draws on all those features of various constitutions which suit the requirements of India.’ Explain.
- ‘The Preamble to the Indian Constitution holds the key to its decoding and interpretation.’ Explain and illustrate.
- Write a critical essay on the salient features of the Indian Constitution.
- ‘The successful functioning of the Indian Constitution for over fifty years has proved the soundness of the basic tenets of the document.’ Comment.
- ‘The Indian Parliamentary system, though patterned on the British model, consists of its own unique features, drawn mainly from the non-British sources.’ Critically examine the statement giving the departures of the Indian parliamentary system from the British parliamentary system.[Page 338]
- Examine the important fundamental rights given in the Indian Constitution with special reference to the Right to Freedom.
- ‘The Constitution of India gives Fundamental Rights with one hand and takes them away with another.’ Do you agree with the above statement? Give reasons for your answer.
- Discuss the importance of Directive Principles of State Policy in India. How far have we been able to implement them?
- Examine the dominant ideology that emerges from the chapters on the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution.
- Do you agree with the view that Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy constitute the ‘core and conscience’ of the Indian Constitution? Comment on the emerging trends in their interrelationship between the two.
- ‘In the early years of the functioning of Indian Constitution, Fundamental Rights and the Directives Principles of State Policy were construed in such a way that they emerged as the stick to beat one another.’ Discuss with reference to the stand of the judiciary on the issue.
- In what respects, the Right to Freedom of Religion is a guarantee for secularism in India? Elaborate your answer with reference to the constitutional provisions in this regard.
- ‘The provisions of Article 32 of the Constitution may be said to constitute the Rights as in the absence of this, the Fundamental Rights would have not been more than pious wishes.’ In the light of the above statement, explain and analyze the significance of the provisions contained in Article 32 of the Constitution.
- Define Fundamental Duties with reference to the Part TV-A of the Constitution. Do you think that a mere incorporation of this part in the Constitution will fulfil the constitutional obligation? Elaborate your answer.
- Discuss the emerging trends in the Indian democratic system from the point of view of the rights of the people.
Chapter 3: The Executive System in Theory and Practice
- ‘India is a quasi-federal system.’ Comment.
- Analyze the stresses and strains in the Centre-state relations with special reference to financial relations and planning.
- Evaluate the major trends and issues emerging out of the working of the federal structure of India in the context of territorial integrity and economic development.
- Write a critical essay on the functioning of federalism in India.
- What is asymmetrical federalism? Why is Indian federalism called an asymmetrical federalism. Elaborate.
- What is executive federalism? What is legislative federalism? How do you characterize Indian federalism? Elaborate your response.
- ‘The typical feature of the Indian federalism in having overwhelming unitary features is the best possible decentralized polity the Constitution makers could think of.’ In the light of the statement, provide plausible justifications for the present state of things in the Indian federal polity.
- ‘Though the legislative and administrative division of functions between Centre and states are far more comprehensive in nature and scope, the major complaints of the states relate to the financial relations between the two.’ Explain and illustrate.
- What are the typical features of the Indian federalism? How far do they deviate from the classical features of the federal system? Elaborate.
- ‘The dawn of the era of coalitional politics in India has led to the correction, in practice if not in theory, of many of the aberrations in the functioning of federal system in India’. Discuss.
Chapter 4: Parliament
- Discuss under what conditions the President of India can take a decision without the advice of the Council of Ministers.[Page 340]
- Examine the powers and functions of the President of India as the head of the state.
- ‘Had there not been the fundamental provision under Article 74 of the Constitution, the Indian President would have become the greatest dictator in the world.’ In the light of the statement, examine the centrality of Article 74 in determining the proper position of the President in India.
- ‘The cabinet form of government has transformed into the prime ministerial form of government in India.’ Comment.
- Assess the powers and functions of Prime Minister in India under the Indian Constitution.
- ‘Despite there being well-defined canons guiding the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister, there has been occasions when the relationship between the two has not been so cordial.’ Examine and illustrate the statement.
- Discuss the nature of administration in India and assess its role in developmental process.
- Examine the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister in India.
- ‘Over the years, the functional maneuverability of the Prime Ministers in India has experienced a decline, though the constitutional power and position remains the same.’ Analyze.
- ‘In the era of coalition governments, the position of the Prime Minister has no longer remained commanding in the Indian polity.’ Examine the position of the prime ministers since the dawn of the coalition governments at the Centre.
Chapter 5: State Executive
- Discuss the powers and functions of the Rajya Sabha. Is it truly a secondary chamber? Elaborate.
- Discuss the role of Rajya Sabha in the federal and parliamentary set-up of India.[Page 341]
- Discuss the relationship between the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha in the parliamentary system of India.
- Discuss the powers and functions of Lok Sabha with special reference to its financial functions.
- ‘Under the framework of the Parliamentary democracy in India, it is, in fact, the Lok Sabha than the Rajya Sabha, which epitomizes the Parliament in India.’ Assess the veracity of the statement in context of the Parliament's responsibility to ensure the accountability of the government to the Parliament.
- ‘Notwithstanding the emergence of the Parliamentary Standing Committees, the traditional Parliamentary Committees like the Public Accounts Committee, the Estimates Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings have been very effective in ensuring the financial accountability of the government.’ Comment.
- Write a critical essay on the changing socio-economic profile of Parliament in India.
- ‘Though Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha are to act in tandem to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament, there may arise occasions when the two Houses may disagree.’ Examine and illustrate the statement, and elaborate the methods available to sort out the difference of opinion between the two Houses.
- Do you agree with the view that the position of the Parliament has declined in India? Give arguments in support of your answer.
- ‘The efficacy and effectiveness of the Parliament have improved considerably with the increasing role and function of the parliamentary standing committees.’ Comment.
Chapter 6: The Judiciary
- Discuss the powers and functions of the Governor as the head of a state.
- Discuss the perspectives of the fathers of the Constitution on the position of the Governor as the head of the state.[Page 342]
- ‘The position of the Governor of a state needs ordinarily to be that of the head of the state but the occupants of the office feel happy in acting as the representative of the Centre in the state.’ Comment.
- Why and how the office of Governor has emerged as one of the biggest irritants in the Centre-state relations in India? What measures would you suggest to obviate the aspersions cast on the office? Elaborate.
- How far do you agree with the demand of a number of states that the office of Governor should be abolished altogether? Give reasons in support of your answer.
- Discuss briefly the views of various Committees and Commissions set up to examine Centre-state relations in India on the desirability or otherwise of retaining the office of the Governor.
- Discuss the impact of the dawn of coalitional politics at the Centre in India on the functional, if not constitutional, dynamics of the office of Governor in various states.
- Examine the discretionary powers of a Governor in comparison to the discretionary powers, if any, of the President of India.
- Discuss the powers and functions of Chief Minister of a state as the head of the government.
- ‘The office of the Chief Minister in a state is a replica of the office of the Prime Minister at Centre, barring certain obvious differentiations.’ Analyze and illustrate the statement.
Chapter 7: Planning and Economic Development
- Examine the structure and functions of the Supreme Court in India, with special reference to its original jurisdictions.
- ‘The provision of an independent judiciary within the stipulations of a parliamentary system of government may be said to be one of the innovations made by the fathers of the Constitution in the realm of the constitutional law in the world.’ In the light of the above statement, explain the rationale and provisions for ensuring the independence of judiciary in the country.[Page 343]
- ‘There has been a long drawn battle between the executive and the judiciary over the issue of amendability of the Constitution till the issue was somewhat resolved with the evolution of the “doctrine of basic structure” of the Constitution.’ Explain and illustrate.
- What is judicial review? What are the bases on which the theory and practice of judicial review operate in India? Elaborate.
- Critically examine the role of the Supreme Court with special reference to its function of judicial review.
- ‘The concept of Public Interest Litigation lies at the root of judicial activism in India.’ Elaborate with suitable examples.
- Examine the views of the proponents and opponents of the increased activist roles the judiciary has been playing during the recent times in India.
- Write a critical essay on the structure and functions of the Union Public Service Commission in India.
- How far has the Election Commission been able to ensure free and fair elections in India? Answer with suitable examples.
- Examine the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in India as the custodian of public money in the country.
Chapter 8: Statutory Institutions and Commissions
- What has been the rationale for the adoption of a planned economic development in India after Independence? Discuss.
- ‘Even before the country gained Independence, efforts have been mounted from various quarters to have planning as the backbone of the strategy of development in India.’ In the light of the statement examine the perspectives of the leaders during national movement on the planning in the country.
- Critically examine the statutory standing and structure of the Planning Commission in context of its role as the pivot of the economic development in the country.[Page 344]
- Analyze the functions and role of the Planning Commission as the allocator of resources for economic development of the country.
- ‘From a highly centralized planning system, India has moves towards indicative planning under which long-term strategic vision of the future in built and nation's priorities are decided.’ In the light of the statement, analyze planning in the era of liberalization.
- Write a critical essay on the political dimensions of reforms in India.
- Analyze the stresses and strains in the Centre-state relations with special reference to financial relations and planning.
- ‘The National Development Council, not the Planning Commission, is the appropriate instrument to ensure linkages between the district, the state and the regional levels of the national planning process.’ Do you agree? Give reasons in support of your answer.
- ‘The National Development Council has virtually become a super-cabinet and tries to arrogate itself the functions of the Parliament.’ In the light of statement, examine the functioning of the NDC over the years in the country.
- ‘Much, if not all, of the problems relating to the flaws in the economic development in the country can be attributed to the faulty process of planning.’ Comment with suitable examples.
Chapter 9: The Indian Party System
- Discuss the rationale and utility of having various statutory institutions and commissions in India.
- Examine the structure and functions of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
- ‘The functioning of the National Commission for Backward Commissions over the years leaves much to be desired.’ Comment.[Page 345]
- What were the motivations for the setting up of the National Commission of Women? How far has the plight of women changed for the better in India with the constitution of the Commission? Elaborate.
- Examine the structure and functions of the National Commission for Women as the nodal agency to alleviate the difficulties faced by women in the country.
- ‘The role played by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in maintaining and preserving dignity of India's citizens has been satisfactory and up to the expectations.’ Comment.
- ‘The NHRC has not been able to play its role effectively due to various hindrances.’ In the light of the statement, examine the bottlenecks impacting adversely on the functioning of the NHRC.
- ‘The National Commission for Minorities is a commission with a major role.’ Elucidate.
- ‘The constitution of the National Commission for Minorities has not brought about substantive improvements in the conditions of the minorities in the country due to obvious reasons.’ Explain and illustrate.
- Examine the inadequacies of machinery for planning to ensure democratic but depoliticized planning process in India. How does the National Development Council accentuate or inhibit this process? Elaborate.
Chapter 10: The Evolution of Indian Administration
- ‘India has parties but no party system.’ Comment.
- ‘The evolution of the Indian party system has been conditioned by the legacies of the pre-Independence days.’ Elucidate.
- ‘The advent of the coalitional governments at the Centre and the states has thoroughly transformed the landscape of the Indian party system.’ Examine.
- Critically examine the impact and role of the pressure groups in the Indian political system.[Page 346]
- Write a critical essay on elites in the Indian party system.
- ‘The Indian polity inherently lacks the propitious conditions for the evolution of a two party system in the country.’ In the light of the statement explain the arguments against the rise of a two-party system in the country.
- Give a synoptic view of rise and growth of Indian party system since Independence.
- Critically examine the contemporary trends in Indian party system.
- ‘Ideologically, despite the existence of both Left-wing and Right-wing parties in the arena, the ruling combination in the Indian party system has always been centrist in substance.’ Examine in the light of the statement, the ruling combinations that the country has experienced so far.
- ‘Indian party system has entered in such a polarized phase, where though the national contest would remain more or less confined between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the Left parties would retain their hold in selected pockets of the country.’ In the light of the statement, outline the prospects of the party system in India.
Chapter 11: Panchayati Governance in India
- Discuss the genesis and evolution of the administrative system in the ancient India.
- Highlight the significant aspects of the Mughal administration in India.
- Narrate the early efforts of the various governor-generals to streamline the administrative system of the country.
- Trace the evolution of the system of the Public Administration in India from 1858 to 1919, highlighting the major landmarks of this period of administrative history.
- ‘The main features of the British governmental and administrative system continue to influence the present administrative system in India.’ Elucidate.
- ‘The Mughal Administrative System was a military rule by nature and was centralized despotism.’ Comment.[Page 347]
- ‘After the Independence, despite the changes in the socio-economic and political milieu, the basic features of colonial impact on administration continue to exist in our administrative system.’ Analyze and illustrate.
- ‘The period of British rule generated most of the structural and behavioural values of Indian administration not by imitation but through interaction.’ Discuss.
- ‘In giving final shape to the Indian administrative system, the framers of the Constitution banked upon the Government of India Act 1935 more than on any other document.’ Critically examine the statement.
- What were the arguments of the national leaders to retain the much criticized All Indian Services even after Independence? Discuss.
Chapter 12: Major Issues in Indian Politics
- Assess the basic motivations for the adoption of the Panchayati Raj system in the post-Independence era.
- ‘Before the Seventy-third Constitutional Amendment, the structures and functions of the Panchayati Raj institutions were modeled on the outline suggested by the two Mehtas.’ Comment.
- Discuss the structure and functions of the Panchayati Raj institutions in Indian in post-1993 era.
- ‘The real problem with the Panchayati Raj institutions is to promote efficiency in the implementation of the rural development programmes and to ensure social and economic justice to the poor in the countryside.’ In the light of the statement, examine the past experience of the working of the Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Bring out the political realities facing the functioning of the Panchayati Raj bodies in the various states of the country.
- Discuss some of the state models of Panchayati Raj in uniform constitutional framework of Seventy-third Constitutional Amendment with special reference to panchayati polls, grassroot justice, local finances, and bureaucratic interactions.[Page 348]
- Examine the provisions of the Seventy-third and Seventy-fourth Constitutional Amendments from the view point of autonomy of the local bodies.
- Analyze the problems that have restricted the successes of Panchayati Raj system in India? How far has the Seventy-third Constitutional Amendment been successful in countering these problems?
- Write a critical essay on the working of Panchayati Raj institutions in India.
- Assess the prospects of the Panchayati Raj institutions becoming the main vehicle of the empowerment of the marginalized sections of society and bringing about positive transformations in the rural society.
- In what respects caste is a modern phenomenon? Elaborate your response.
- Critically assess the impact of caste on Indian politics.
- Analyze the factors leading to the rise of communal politics in India.
- ‘Mandal and Mandir are two sides of the same coin’. Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer.
- ‘Hindutva and Hinduism are not identical’. Do you agree? Give reasons for your response.
- What is silent revolution? Is silent revolution linked with deepening of democracy in India? Elaborate your response.
- What is empowerment? Evaluate the importance of the Seventy-third Amendment Act in women empowerment in India.
- What is economic liberalization? Assess critically the impact of economic liberalization on Indian politics.
- Critically assess the role of regional parties in coalition politics in contemporary India.
- What is secularism? Examine the important issues in the debate on secularism in India.
About the Authors[Page 359]
Bidyut Chakrabarty is a Professor in the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. Dr Chakrabarty has over 20 years of teaching experience in the field of Political Science in India and abroad. After completing his doctoral research at the London School of Economics, he began his academic career in India as a Reader in the Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata. After a long stint abroad he became a Reader in the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. He held visiting professorship in Europe, USA, and Australia during his long academic career. He also occupied the prestigious India Chair at the Asian-Africa Institute, Hamburg University, Hamburg, Germany.
He has a wide range of solo authored and co-authored publications in the field of Political Science. Some of his recent co-publications include: Forging Power: Coalition Politics in India, 2006; Social and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi, 2006; Reinventing Public Administration: The Indian Experience, 2007 and Indian Politics and Society since Independence, 2008. He has also published a biography of Mahatma Gandhi entitled Gandhi: A Historical Biography in 2007.
Rajendra Kumar Pandey is a Lecturer at the Hindu College, University of Delhi. He has also taught at the Delhi College of Arts and Commerce, University of Delhi. Dr Pandey has been teaching for over ten years in Delhi University. He is a specialist in micro-politics. His M. Phil was on the topic ‘Governing the Indian Capital: A Study of the New Politico-Administrative Set-up of Delhi’. Under the supervision of Professor Bidyut Chakrabarty he completed a doctoral dissertation, ‘Disaster Management in India: A Case Study of Flood Control in Delhi’ in 2001. The thesis was highly acclaimed by experts.