Let me tell you about democracy in India.  First, you need to know that it’s a parliamentary system with two houses, both elected.  There are a wide variety of parties, both local and national.  This means that a coalition government is almost assured; that is, no one party will have enough members of parliament to have control.  There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The largest party at the moment is the Congress Party of Nehru/Gandhi.  They won the last election and took over from the Hindu nationalist BJP party.  There are communist parties, Muslim parties, and parties that are limited to single states.
The states have their own governments which are also often multiparty coalitions.  There are huge differences in the states with regard to education, services, and standard of living.  Some states are virtually feudal systems ruled by the people with the strongest militias.  Others are politically sophisticated with well educated electorates.

Two things are major determinants of how well the state and national governments function: corruption and religion.  Corruption is a major problem with civil servants expecting “tips” to sign papers or process them. Criminals can “buy” the opportunity to run for office in many parties.  One can run for office as long as he is not convicted, even if under indictment.  Religion has become an issue, and it often relates to caste and community. There is no sense of community as it is experienced in the US.  The community in India is your caste group or religious affiliation.  And, people do tend to segregate themselves into areas even in multi-religious towns.  

The parliamentary system means that people really vote for a party as opposed to an individual.  The person elected pretty well has to vote the party line or he can be kicked out for indiscipline.  Representatives do not have to live in the areas they run in.  

Now, for some fun.  The elections are a riot.  There are cars, trucks, even bicycles with loud speakers on them that go everywhere shouting political slogans.  They can also be dangerous, people still get killed for political activity every election.  Sessions of parliament can be very rowdy with people walking out, throwing furniture, attacking other members physically, and lots of yelling and screaming.

The best part is that this democracy is maturing.  There are efforts to get rid of the corruption, and the population is becoming more and more educated and politically aware.  It will be fun to watch as the economic development continues how the democracy develops as well.

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