India gained independence from Great Britain on 15th August, 1947 and became a Republic on 26th January, 1950 when the Constitution of India came into effect. India is the largest practising democracy in the world, with elections at every level based on universal adult suffrage. General elections are normally held every 5 years.
Today, the Union of India comprises 29 states and 7 union territories with the Central Government at New Delhi, the capital of the country. The political structure laid down by the Constitution is federal in nature but unitary in spirit, with legislative powers and revenues divided between the states and the Centre.
At both the Centre and in the states, the powers of government are divided between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. At the Centre, the Executive comprises of the President, Vice-President and the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. The Union Legislature (Parliament) has two houses - the Lok Sabha (the lower house, elected by the people of India from individual, simple majority constituencies) and the Rajya Sabha (the upper house, elected by the State Legislatures who in turn are directly elected by the people on the same lines as the Lok Sabha). The Judiciary is vested in the Supreme Court of India.