How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam

How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam
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Here we are discussing strategy for How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam? This strategy will help you to prepare prelims and mains exam.


Democratic Politics-II, the Class X NCERT textbook says that‘politics is about how thinking human beings determine and change the way they live together. This involves ideas and ideals, cooperation and coordination. This also involves conflict and competition, self and collective interest. Therefore much of democratic politics is about power-sharing’.

The subject of Polity and Constitution has always occupied a dominant space in both the Preliminary as well as Mains Civil Services Examination of the UPSC. Apart from understanding the Indian Constitution, being well aware of the basics of our political functioning is a sine qua non for the candidates who aspire to compete in the Civil Services Examination.

Our notes and lecture series would cover the preliminary and mains syllabus exhaustively and also focus on generating interest and developing conceptual clarity. Using basic concepts and fundamentals of polity to understand current happenings would also be a focus area, more so if the current trend were kept in mind.

How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam

As a starting point we are providing the following basic readings from NCERTs, which you are expected to complete before the Online Classroom Sessions begin:

To begin with please start with the NCERT of Class IX, Democratic Politics-I. A sequential reading of its chapters should suffice.

  • Chapter 1: Democracy in the Contemporary World–The definition and features of democracy, changing map and phases in the expansion of democracy, democracy at the global level (including international organizations and democracy promotion) are the topics covered in this chapter. In addition to reading the text, please go through the Glossary given at the end of the chapter. Also, try to answer the questions given as part of the exercise (One needs to be thorough with the Glossary and the end of chapter Exercise questions of all the chapters in the book.)
  • Chapter 2: What is Democracy? Why Democracy?–This chapter elaborately discusses the definition as well as the features of democracy (expanding what was very briefly covered in Chapter 1.) It also discusses why democracy is needed (offering arguments both in favor and against democracy.) The final section is on the broader meanings of democracy.
  • Chapter 3: Constitutional Design– The first section on Democratic Constitution in South Africa makes an interesting read. ‘Why we need a Constitution?’ is the subsequent section. The third section covers the Making of the Indian Constitution (though the content is good, it is quite brief). The final section on the ‘Guiding Values of the Indian Constitution’ explains very clearly the key terms, like Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. While these terms would need to be understood in much greater detail and clarity, as a starting point the brief explanations of these, given towards the end of the chapter, should suffice.
  • Chapter 4: Electoral Politics –Why Elections? What is our System of Elections? What makes Elections in India Democratic? These are questions that have been elaborately answered in this chapter.
  • Chapter 5: Working of Institutions – This chapter includes sections on how major policy decisions are taken, Parliament (need of Parliament and the two houses of Parliament), the Political Executive (the Political and Permanent Executive, P.M. and the Council of Minsters, the President) and the Judiciary. Thus, this chapter gives a broad overview of all the three organs of the State and hence is quite important.
  • Chapter 6: Democratic Rights –This chapter covers various aspects of Democratic Rights like that of a Life without Rights, Rights in a Democracy, Rights in the Indian Constitution (this section covers the fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution)and expanding the scope of rights.
How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam

Moving on to Class X NCERT, Democratic Politics-II, the content of this book is more about the politics and some concepts that are relevant to an understanding of the Constitution.

  • For instance, the first chapter on Power Sharing starts off with examples from a couple of countries around the world, before elaborating on the different Forms of Power Sharing. As with the Class IX NCERT, ponder over the questions of the Exercises of all the chapters in this book as well.
  • The second chapter on Federalismstartsby explaining what federalism means. Go through this section very carefully, as the concept of Federalism needs to be understood with great clarity for an effective understanding of the Indian Constitution. The subsequent sections explain what makes India a federal country and how federalism is practiced in India. The last section on Decentralization in India explains briefly the third tier of democracy.
  • The next chapter on Democracy and Diversity starts off with an interesting incidence from the Mexico Olympics. The dilemmas raised relate to questions of racial discrimination. It then explains some concepts related to differences and divisions. The third section is about the Politics of Social Divisions.
  • While studying the fourth chapter on Gender, Religion, and Castefocus on all the key terms and try to develop an understanding of related concepts. For instance, concepts like Division of Labour, Feminism, Patriarchy, Secularism, Communalism, Caste, Inequality, Urbanization, Hierarchy, Mobility etc. need to be understood clearly. Preferably, try to clear these concepts as and when you encounter them in each section.
  • The fifth chapter on Popular Struggles and Movements, not only covers Popular Struggles in a couple of countries, but also the concepts of Mobilization and Organizations as well as Pressure Groups and Movements.
  • The sixth chapter on Political Parties starts off with the Need of Political Parties. This section explains the meaning, functions as well as the necessity of political parties. The subsequent section elaborates on how many political parties we should have. You can give a quick reading to the sections on National and State Parties. After completing this move on to the sections on challenges to political parties and how parties can be reformed. These two sections are quite important in the present context as well.
  • Chapter seven is on the Outcomes of Democracy. While the first section is on how we assess democracy’s outcomes and moves on to the concept of Accountable, responsive and legitimate government. The sections on Economic Growth and Development and Reduction of inequality and poverty are covered here very briefly (these have been elaborately covered in the NCERT textbooks on Economics). The last but one section covers briefly how Social Diversity can be accommodated, while the last section is on Dignity and Freedom of the Citizens.
  • The final chapter on Challenges to Democracy is more a food for thought type of chapter and can be given a quick reading.
How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam

Finally, move on to the NCERT textbook of Class XI, titled Indian Constitution at Work. This textbook has ten chapters in all. Reading these should be considered as a prerequisite to reading other works like the ones by M Laxmikanth (Indian Polity) and D.D. Basu (Introduction to the Constitution of India). Once read (a sequential reading would do), the student would get a fairly good idea of the fundamental aspects of the Indian Constitution. The learning outcomes expected from each chapter have been clearly written at the beginning of each. Please go through them and set your goals before you start reading the chapter. This would help you in becoming clear about what the focus areas should be. Reading the conclusion and making an earnest attempt to answer the end-of-chapter questions, given as part of the Exercise, would bring about even more clarity. Please start with the first chapter on Constitution: Why and How and read each carefully, following all the guidelines as aforementioned. All the fundamentals required for a basic understanding of the Indian Constitution, like those of FundamentalsRights, the system of elections in India, the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, Federalism, Local Governments etc. have been covered in adequate detail in this book.

How to Study Indian Polity for UPSC Exam

Now arises the question of how to complete these readings before the Classroom Sessions begin. One way to cover these would be to design your personal study program. Try to create a schedule: an orderly, systematic approach is not only beneficial but also critical in an examination like the UPSC CSE. Preferably dedicate a consistent block of time every day of the week.

Set a few learning outcomes, as are given in Class XI NCERT – Class XI Indian Constitution at Work, (but you can be a bit more elaborate) for a chapter after browsing through it quickly. Then go for a thorough reading. Once you complete it, see whether the learning outcomes you predicted made sense and helped you answer all the questions of the Exercise.

Apart from these, also go through a national daily, preferably The Hindu or The Indian Express. While reading these, pay special attention to news items and editorials that are either related to the Indian Constitution or the national as well as international political systems, in one way or the other.

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