The evolution of Indian politics after 1947 is a journey of unpredictable but progressive change.
From One to Many
The Indian political system has undergone a tremendous situation-induced evolution in the post-independence period. Before 1947, i.e. during the freedom struggle against the British rule, the Indian National Congress (INC) was the main political voice of Indians, with many other smaller political entities influencing relatively smaller groups of the population regionally.
After 1947, as the British left, India adopted a democratic form of governance, and gave to itself a structured constitution drafted by a qualified Constituent Assembly. The first general elections in India were held in 1951, which was won by the Congress party, and it continued to rule the country uninterruptedly till 1977. The national emergency imposed in 1975 had a deleterious impact on the democratic fabric. Consequently, the year 1977 saw a new wave on the Indian political scene when, for the first time in independent India, a non-Congress government of Janata Party was formed at the Centre, under the leadership of Morarji Bhai Desai. The Janata Party was an opportunities amalgam of various political parties, with different ideologies and every leader having his own ambitions and aspirations. It witnessed a continuous infighting, as a result of it could survive for just over two years. This period saw the emergence of many strong regional parties, entrenched in their own regions and emerging as future national players.
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Rao Govt. and LPG of 1991
The 1990s saw Indian economy withering under multiple pressures including the collapse of the Soviet Union, domestic strife against Mandal Commission recommendations, collapse of industrial activity and alarming shrinking of foreign exchange reserves. This led to the rise of the minority government of P.V.Narsimha Rao (INC), and the rise of coalition politics. During this period, single-party dominance ended and coalition politics became the order of the day. Several coalition governments were formed from then until 2014, and few could last for their full term or exert strong political authority.
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As the coalition governments had inherent weaknesses, the result was a government at the Centre with hardly any transformational governance. Coalition partners exerted undue pressure on the government for their own personal and regional interests. Corruption and nepotism was rampant, the governments were usually dysfunctional across many sectors. The common voter gradually realized that it was not to his advantage to have such a system.
The general elections of May 2014 saw the end of coalition governments after about three decades of coalition politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured a resounding majority in the elections and formed a majority government at the Centre. It was a clear signal for change.
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This, however, does not mean that regional political parties have lost their charm. The successive State Assembly elections after 2014 have established this fact quite firmly. The local challenges of the common man in a massive country like India cannot be met effectively by a single Central government.
Indian politics is undergoing the biggest churn till date due to a confluence of many factors. The demonetisation exercise undertaken by Modi government has unsettled Centre-State relations in many ways. The rollout of the proposed GST regime is redefining fiscal relationships. And the lively debate on cooperative federalism is further adding colours to this evolving situation. You can read related Bodhis on these issues to gain a comprehensive understanding of Indian political system.
Unitary running Federal, and in a Corrupt manner!
A common shortcoming of almost all Indian political parties - National, Regional and Smaller ones included - is the lack of truly democratic internal elections. So, we have a unique situation - a federal democracy called India is being run by parties that have hugely centralised power structures (the "High Commands"). A mature electorate has begun seeing through this charade. With time, it will punish the parties where leaders are imposed from outside without genuinely representing local aspirations. In addition to the opaque electoral funding processes, this remains the second big weakness of Indian political system.
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Here is the list of all Lok Sabha speakers till date
Indeed, the Indian voter remains the most unpredictable variable in any political equation. The collective subconscious of Indian population is capable of throwing major surprises. India is evolving, and these are interesting times to watch!
Prime Minister Modi has embarked on a mission of totally restructuring important governance processes, using technology and vision. This is not a bumps-free journey. But he seems committed, as the slew of new schemes indicates.
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