Democracy in India
India's constitution draws strongly from its colonial predecessor, the 1935 Government of India Act. It should be
noted, however, that the constitution was not entirely neutral: the provisional government (drawing up the
constitution) was dominated by the Indian National Congress, and Congress leaders effectively
set the course for the
debate and influenced the final form of the constitution
. Ostensibly the Indian constitution has certain Socialist
leanings, although how far this manifests in practice has varied across the past decades, as well as according to
leadership; where the economy is concerned, for instance, Nehru strongly advocated a central authority and strong
regulation, but Shastri was much more supportive of private enterprises and diminished central planning.
Under the constitution, the formal head-of-state is the president, who holds similar (particularly in its symbolism)
powers to the British monarch. The president is elected by members from Parliament and state legislature, and is
subsequently entitled to appoint the prime minister and Council of Ministers. He also holds several other constitutional
powers, including the ability to dissolve Parliament, declare a state of emergency, and veto parliamentary bills. It
should be noted, however, that much like the British monarch, the president's powers are largely exercised on the
advice of the Council of Ministers, itself dominated by the prime minister. The president does not so much influence
the cabinet as provide affirmation for its actions and composition.
This is not to say that the Indian president is merely a figurehead. There have been times where the president has
had to intervene following inconclusive elections, acting
as an arbiter and guide during power vacuums
the collapse of the BJP government in 1979, for instance, President Reddy appointed Charan Singh as prime minister.
When Singh resigned three weeks later due to his inability to form a workable government, Reddy invited him to
oversee a caretaker government. This interim government held power until the 1980 elections. Similarly, President
Sharmar stepped in several times following the confusion of the 1996 national elections, likewise to identify the best
candidates to form a government.
The Indian president used to wield a fairly controversial power; this was the power to suspend or abrogate
freedom–on the prime minister's advice–when faced with a
, wherein India's security was threatened
external aggression or internal disturbance
. However, following Indira Gandhi's 1975 attempt to have the
president declare such an emergency in response to political opposition, the constitution was amended to grant the
president such powers only when faced with external aggression.
While the Indian president wields considerably more power in practice than he does in theory, the contrary is