Preparing for the personal interview of the UPSC exam can be daunting. Here are some pointers: the second in a series on preparing for the UPSC exam.

Indian polity forms an important aspect of the knowledge content of the personal interview of the civil services exam. The candidates need to know Indian polity as part of general studies, current affairs and as optional subject for the candidates of political science and international relations.

A career in the civil services is intimately linked with politics, and, in fact, politics and public administration are blood cousins. While politics is involved in policy formulation and decision-making in an authoritative fashion, public administration deals primarily with execution of formulated programmes and policies. Furthermore, in parliamentary democracies, political representatives form the temporary executives while the selected recruited bureaucracy forms the permanent executive body, and the civil servants are expected to work in tandem with political representatives to achieve socio-economic development of our country. A proper understanding of the Indian constitution and the political process in India is indispensable for a productive career in the civil services.

There are four types of issues and topics in Indian political system that the personality test candidates should thoroughly prepare for.

(a)Institutional or structural aspects; (b)Functional features of political dynamics; (c) Maladies that afflict Indian politics and (d) Current events and issues

Institutional or structural aspects

The interview panel shows a tendency to ask questions on the constitutional, institutional aspects of our political system and therefore students must concentrate on them thoroughly, and they ought to have a complete mental map of our Constitution.

They should study the numerous parts, articles and schedules of the Constitution, especially the most important and unique ones. The basic institutional arrangements as laid down by the Constitution regarding fundamental rights, directive principles of state policy, parliamentary system, co-operative federalism, integrated hierarchical judiciary, structure and organisation of State government, and the transitional, temporary provisions of the Constitution are among the significant areas that the candidates ought to pay comprehensive attention to.

A rigorous perusal of the interviews of the previous years reveals the frequently asked factual questions on important provisions of our Constitution.

What is the doctrine of pith and substance? What is colourable legislation? What is an associate state? What is the zero hour in Parliament? What is the rule of law and where do you find it in the Indian Constitution? What is cut motion? What is the constitutional impeachment procedure for the removal of judges of Supreme Court and high courts? Most of the questions on the institutional aspects of Indian polity are factual, empirical and comparative ones and as the candidates have already studied them as part of the preliminary test and main exam, they need to glance through the Constitution so as to refresh their memory.

Functional aspects

The interview panel seeks to understand the awareness of the candidates about the positive and functional currents of Indian politics.

The interviewees must prepare themselves on the numerous achievements of Indian democracy such as the preservation of national unity and integrity in spite of the existence of numerous fissiparous threats and forces, conservation of democracy as a form of governance, achievements of economic growth and concomitant empowerment of millions of people, gradual and peaceful modernisation of a vertically hierarchical society, superlative developments in science and technology and staunch adherence to moral diplomacy in international relations. These are some of the functional dimensions of our polity that the candidates must place before the board to defend the worth of Indian democracy.

The interview panel may also ask whether we should replace a parliamentary system with the presidential democracy or a benevolent dictatorship. As democracy signifies popular sovereignty, the candidates must defend the democratic model of governance as a developmental instrument and should eschew any tendency towards dictatorship of any kind.

Maladies

The panel may like to interact with candidates on the numerous maladies that afflict our political system, such as criminalisation of politics, corruption in public life, decline of parliament and other important institutions, parallel economy, naxalite menace, terrorism, secessionism and parochialism.

There are a number of innovative concepts that describe the malfunctions of our liberal democracy, such as the soft state, the over-developed state, the governability crisis, etc. The personality-test candidates must possess an elaborate understanding, profound perception and convincing arguments to tackle the fusillade of questions that the personal interview panel may fire on these issues.

Current affairs

The major controversies, processes and events in the life of our democratic republic form another prospective domain of questions in the personal interview.

The nation will be in the throes of the fourteenth general elections in April and May when the personal interview is scheduled to take place and therefore the interviewees should study all aspects of the elections in India including Constitutional provisions, the election commission, campaign strategies and issues of political parties, electoral reforms, judgments of the Supreme Courts on electoral issues, electoral disputes, prominent personalities, psephological issues such as exit polls and opinion polls, State funding of elections, criminalisation of the electoral process and corrective remedies, etc.

The candidates may face tricky questions in the personality test. They should not either consciously or inadvertently reveal any political bias or colour.

The career in civil services in India is designed on the model of Weberian rational bureaucracy and British tradition of political neutrality. There is a bewildering range of diversity in India and the candidates should not exhibit any invidious proclivity towards their own caste, religion, region and language.

To modify Lord Macaulay’s words, the Union Public Service Commission looks for candidates who are Indians in colour, taste, temperament, morals and intellect in the personal interview of the civil services exam and dismisses ruthlessly candidates having proclivities towards nepotism, parochialism and irrational primordial attachments.

As and when candidates are caught in a quandary, the Constitution should become a kind of lighthouse and therefore they should articulate their perspectives in tune with Constitutional provisions and values. The dictum, “ever with the Constitution and never against,” must guide the personality test candidates of the civil services exam.

The writer coaches students for the IAS Exam Coach free and is associate professor of political science at Government Arts College, Coimbatore. Email: iasips2011@gmail.com