Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Every state in India has a body of direct representatives of the people. This is the lower house of the State Legislature and is called Vidhan Sabha or the Legislative Assembly. The members of a Vidhan Sabha are directly elected by the people of that particular state by an electorate consisting of all adult citizens.

Gujarat Vidhan Sabha is one such unicameral (having only one legislative or parliamentary chamber) legislature of India. Presently, there are 182 directly elected members from the single-seat constituencies and 1 member is nominated. The Constitution of India highlights that the size of a Vidhan Sabha cannot be more than 500 and less than 60 members. However, the number can be made lesser through an act of the Parliament as in the case of states like Goa, Mizoram and Sikkim. The demarcation of territorial constituencies is done in such a manner that the ratio between population of each constituency and number of seats allotted to it, as far as practicable, is the same for all states. Just like the Lok Sabha, in case of Vidhan Sabha, the Governor has the power to appoint 1 member of the Anglo-Indian Community, if he/she feels that the community is not adequately represented in the House.

Gujarat has witnessed the formation of Parliamentary Democracy and institutions that resembled the present Vidhan Sabha since ages. Shri Bhavsinhji, ruler of the then Bhavnagar State had established an institution called ‘The Peoples’ Representative Assembly’ in 1918. This Assembly had 38 Members appointed by His Highness and they had the right to ask questions related to the problems of the people. Similar were the cases with Porbander, Baroda and Saurashtra constituencies.It was then on 1st May, 1960 when Gujarat was bifurcated from Bombay and the Gujarat Legislative was also constituted. All the 132 members of the former Bombay Legislative Assembly who were elected from the territorial constituencies of Gujarat became the members of the First Gujarat Legislative Assembly. Thus, the initial strength of the Assembly was 132. The strength gradually increased owing to the increase in the population. However, since 1975 the number has been fixed at 182 and no amendments can be made until 2025. Out of the present 182 territorial constituencies, 13 constituencies are reserved for Scheduled Castes and 26 constituencies for Scheduled Tribes.

Dr. Jivraj Mehta was the First Chief Minister of the state and Shri Kalyanji Mehta was the First Speaker of the Assembly. The current Vidhan Sabha at Gandhinagar is named ‘Viththalbhai Patel Bhavan’ in the memory of Late Shri Viththalbhai Patel, the first Indian Speaker of the Central Legislative Assembly. The present speaker of the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha is Ganpat Vasava.

Generally, Vidhan Sabha is formed for a period of 5 years. Though, in case of declaration of an Emergency, the term may be extended or it can be dissolved. Vidhan Sabha can also be dissolved if a motion of no confidence is passed against the majority party or coalition within the House.

Vidhan Sabha has some special powers. The biggest one being: A motion of no confidence against the Government in the state can only be introduced in the Vidhan Sabha. If it is passed by a majority vote, then the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers must collectively resign. Also, a money bill can be introduced only by a Vidhan Sabha. The budget of state is also presented in the Vidhan Sabha by the Finance Minister of the state in the name of the Governor of that state.

Some states also have a Legislative Council, i.e. the Vidhan Parishad. This can roughly be compared to Rajya Sabha and it serves as the indirectly elected upper house of a bicameral legislature. It is also a permanent house because it cannot be dissolved. In India, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have Vidhan Parishads.

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The upper house of the Indian Parliament is better known as Rajyasabha. It is called the ‘Council of States’ as the legislatures of the states and union territories elect 238 members, and the President appoints another 12. The seats are allotted in proportion to population. The members elected by the President are called ‘Nominated Members’ and are selected for their expertise in specific fields of art, literature, science and social services. Terms of office are for six years, with one third of the members retiring every two years.

The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for the creation of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature, with a restricted franchise which actually came into existence in 1921. The name Rajyasabha was announced by the chair in the House on the 23rd August 1954. The second chamber was created because a single directly elected House was considered inadequate to meet the challenges before a free India. The minimum age of thirty years was fixed and an element of dignity was added by making the Vice-President of India the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajyasabha who presides over its sittings. The first sitting was held on 13 May 1952. The Deputy Chairman of the Rajyasabha is elected from amongst its members. His role is to look after the day-to-day matters of the house in the absence of the Chairman.

The Rajyasabha meets in continuous sessions and is not subject to dissolution. It shares its legislative powers with the Loksabha – lower house and in case of conflicts, a joint sitting of the two houses is held. However, the Loksabha has the de facto veto power, as its members are double in number as compared to the Rajyasabha.

Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament whereas Article 102 is for the conditions on which a member of any of the houses can be disqualified. Apart from the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, the Leader of the House is another functionary who plays important role in the efficient and smooth conduct of the business in the House. The Leader of the House in Rajyasabha is normally the Prime Minister. He coordinates all the sections of the House and the Chairman consults him for all major decisions. Also, there is a Leader of Opposition whose role is more difficult as he has to criticize, find faults and present alternative proposals/policies with no power to implement them.

The present strength of Rajya Sabha is 245, out of which 233 are representatives of the States and Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry and 12 are nominated by the President. The current Chairman of the Rajyasabha is Mohammad Hamid Ansari since 2007; Majority Leader of the House is PM Manmohan Singh since 2007 whereas the Leader of Opposition (BJP) is Arun Jaitley since 2009.

Rajya Sabha has played a constructive and valuable role in the Indian polity. Its performance in the legislative field and in influencing the Government policies has been quite pro-active. It has strengthened people’s faith in the democracy, and maintained unity and integrity of the nation.

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With a billion people, the Republic of India is the world’s largest democracy. The form of Government in which supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation, usually involving periodic free elections is termed as a Democracy. The power may be derived from the people, by consensus (consensus democracy), by direct referendum (direct democracy), or by means of elected representatives of the people (representative democracy).
In simple terms, democracy is a system of Government with four key elements:
• A political system for choosing and replacing the Government through free and fair elections.
• The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
• Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
• A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
The word democracy is derived from the Greek word ‘demos’ meaning people. In the memorable phrase of President Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a Government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Democracy is not just a political system, but a way of life. Freedom and democracy are often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. Democracy is indeed a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of practices and procedures that have been molded through a long history. Democracy is the institutionalization of freedom. If democracy is to work, citizens must not only participate and exercise their rights but also observe certain principles and rules of democratic conduct. They must respect the law and reject violence.India’s democratic system has been working successfully for the last half a century. But this democratization has also been facing several challenges.
• Divisive Tendencies
• Extremism / Terrorism
• Unemployment
• Political instability
• Parochialism (Provincial Tendencies)
• Growing Illiteracy
• Corruption and Nepotism
But the ultimate power lies with the people and they must serve as the final guardians of their own freedom and must build their own path toward the ideals set forth in the preamble to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

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