Both democracies have popularly elected executive and legislature and an independent Judiciary. Free and fair elections conducted transparently at periodical intervals by an autonomous constitutional body. Also both nations have a free media. Nevertheless American and Indian democracy differ in various ways as explained below.
Political Party System
American democracy is dominated by just two parties – The Democrats and The Republicans. Indian democracy is dominated by several parties, around five of them. In the US, the two parties enjoy national popularity but in Indian democracy apart from two parties, the rest are mostly regional parties. In American democracy the two parties have sound ideological base while in Indian politics ideological affiliations are rather vague. Finally Indian parties are mostly dominated by individuals of one family.
The Executive in American democracy is The President while in Indian democracy it is The Prime Minister. In American democracy the Executive is both the head of Government and the head of state but the Prime Minister in Indian democracy is the head of government only. In American democracy the Executive is voted to office independently and directly while members of the Congress are voted separately. Thus the executive and congress may not belong to the same party. In contrast in the Indian democracy the Prime Minister is chosen from among the members of the party that has secured the maximum seats in Parliament via a national ballot. Thus the Prime Minister belongs to the party which controls the parliament.
In American democracy the congress can place a check on the power and actions of the President. In Indian democracy the Prime Minister can control the legislature by virtue of his party’s dominance in the Parliament.
Origin of Democracy
American and Indian democracy has different origins. American democracy was a collective aspiration of those European settlers who fled the old Europe of despotic Monarchs, feudalism and Papal influence. In the new world the settlers carefully maintained and guarded their individual rights and spirit of freedom. When they formed their own government after gaining independence from Britain they ensured that no governmental authority would ever infringe on their individual rights and freedom. American democracy was thus a carefully nurtured one that evolved gradually to what it is today. American democracy is a matured and advanced democracy. The Indian democracy in contrast was imposed on a nation whose 80% population was not literate nor knew the English language. Their rural life was dominated by families who had wielded power over the weaker masses for centuries. It was members of these elites who came to occupy administrative post under the British and later in the independent Indian government. Similarly it was they who formed political parties on the wake of British departure and later played crucial role in the formation of the Constitutions and parliament. They opted for the British form government. The vast of the population had no say in the formation of the democratic set up.
Functioning of democracy
Consequent to this difference in origin the two democracies function differently. In American democracy we find a people’s participation at almost every level- the ward, the city, the county, the state and the union. They actively participate in making their democracy work by writing to senators and representatives, petitioning for support for or against policies, attend local meetings, invite local legislators in local events etc. In Indian democracy it is a onetime affair where individual and local connections matter. Most voters do not expect much change in their daily life but look forward to obtain individual benefits from the local politician.
Democracy in this Hindu majority nation is still evolving. The recent national election appears as a new trend in which the people had voted for a Prime Minister who is seen as one who can initiate good governance and development which he had done in the state he was Chief Minister of. This is a new trend. The two democracies are different but the Indian democracy gets its inspiration from the American democracy.