According to its constitution, India is a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic." India is said to be the largest nation on Earth with a democratically-elected government. Like the United States, India has a federal form of government. However, the central government in India has greater power in relation to its states, and its central government is patterned after the British parliamentary system. In terms to the former, "the Centre", the national government, can and has dismissed state governments if no majority party (-ies) are able to form a government or under specific Constitutional clauses, and can impose direct federal rule known as President's rule.
The government exercises its broad administrative powers in the name of the President, whose duties are largely ceremonial. The president and vice president are elected indirectly for 5-year terms by a special electoral college. The vice president assumes the office of president in case of the death or resignation of the incumbent president.
Real national executive power is centered in the Council of Ministers (cabinet), led by the Prime Minister of India. The President appoints the Prime Minister, who is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. The President then appoints subordinate ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister. (In reality, the President has no discretion on the question of whom to appoint as Prime Minister except when no political party or coalition of parties gains a majority in the Lok Sabha. Once the Prime Minister has been appointed, the President has no discretion on any other matter whatsoever, including in the matter of appointment of ministers. But all Central Government decisions are nominally taken in his name. This point should be kept in mind when reading about "decisions by the President", including in this article)
India's bicameral parliament (also known as the Sansad) consists of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People). The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Lok Sabha.
The legislatures of the states and union territories elect 238 members to the Rajya Sabha, and the president appoints another 12, who are experts in science or the arts. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha serve 6-year terms, with one-third up for election every 2 years. The Lok Sabha consists of 545 members; 543 are directly elected, while the other two are appointed by the President from among the Anglo-Indian community. The term of the Lok Sabha is five years.
India has 28 states and 7 union territories. States have their own elected government, whereas Union Territories are governed by an administrator appointed by the union (federal) government. Some of the state legislatures are bicameral, patterned after the two houses of the national parliament. The states' chief ministers are responsible to the legislatures in the same way the prime minister is responsible to parliament.
Each state also has a presidentially appointed governor who may assume certain broad powers when directed by the central government. The central government exerts greater control over the union territories than over the states, although some territories have gained more power to administer their own affairs. Local governments in India have less autonomy than their counterparts in the United States. Some states are trying to revitalize the traditional village councils, or panchayat systems, which aim to promote popular democratic participation at the village level, where much of the population still lives.
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