Government Politics of India

Last elections: May 2o14

Next elections: 2019

Head of state: President Pranab Mukherjee (2012–)

Head of government: Prime Minister Dr Narendra Modi

Ruling party: Bharatiya Janata Party

After a year in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government faced continuing difficulty in keeping the coalition together, the final results of the early September/October 1999 elections gave the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) – a new 24-party national alliance led by the BJP – a solid majority with 298 seats, though BJP’s own total of 182 seats had hardly increased. However, Congress (I) and its allies took only 136 seats. The 1999 elections were the first since 1984 when a pre-election alliance managed to secure a clear majority in parliament.

In an early election, the first using electronic voting machines, held over four days in April/May 2004, the coalition – the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – led by Indian National Congress (INC) emerged, with 217 seats, ahead of the ruling NDA (185 seats). However, INC leader, Sonia Gandhi, decided not to accept the prime ministership and Dr Manmohan Singh, a former finance minister who had overseen the economic reform programme in the early 1990s, was chosen by INC to form the new government. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), with 43 seats, joined INC to provide the necessary majority in taking the new agenda forward.

The July 2007 presidential election was won by Pratibha Patil of the INC, who was the nominee of UPA and first woman to become president. She defeated the BJP’s candidate, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, in the electoral college vote to choose a successor to Dr Abdul Kalam.

In July 2008, when a key UPA coalition partner, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M), would not support the government’s proposed nuclear deal with the USA, the government narrowly survived a vote of confidence (275:256 votes, 11 abstentions), largely due to the support of a non-coalition member, the Samajwadi Party.

In the general election of April/May 2009 the Congress Party-led UPA prevailed, extending its share to 261 of the 545 seats (INC with 206), obviating the need for the complex coalition negotiations that had followed recent elections. Its main rival, the NDA, took 159 seats (BJP with 116); the Third Front coalition – now including the CPI(M) – 78. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned to head the government for a second term.

The July 2012 presidential election was won by Pranab Mukherjee of the INC, who was the nominee of UPA. He defeated BJP’s Purno Agitok Sangma in the electoral college vote to choose a successor to Pratibha Patil.

The general election held on a number of days during the period 7 April–12 May 2014 was won decisively by the BJP-led NDA. The BJP secured 282 seats in the Lok Sabha (with 31.0 per cent of the votes cast); INC 44 seats (19.3 per cent), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 37 and All India Trinamool Congress 34. On 26 May 2014 BJP leader Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat State, 2001–14, was sworn in as Prime Minister.