Quest for Democratic Efficiency
THE BASICS OF PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM
India follows a parliamentary form of government, the Westminster model of the UK, in which members are elected from a demarcated territory, and these elected members represent people in parliament. In this system members who form executive are drawn from the legislature. Executive and legislature are not separated from each other thereby, there is a close relationship between them. The executive consists of a council of ministers headed by the prime minister, and the council of ministers is collectively responsible to Parliament; they are in power as long as they enjoy the confidence of the Lok Sabha. In this system, the president is the nominal head of the executive, and the real powers are vested in the hands of a council of ministers headed by the Prime minister. The election is held in each constituency where people vote for a candidate who is contesting in their constituency. Following the first-past-the-post system, the candidate securing the highest number of votes is declared the winner. In the Presidential system, the executive is separated from the legislature, following the principle of separation of power among organs of Government and the executive, which the president held responsible to the legislature. The election is fought among few individuals, and voters vote for an individual who is the head of state and Government. The presidential system is followed in the USA.
THE RATIONALE OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
The parliamentary system was adopted by the Constituent Assembly because they wanted to maintain co-operation and coordination between legislature and executive as keeping them separate would lead to conflict. They wanted to establish a stable and responsible executive. They thought that it is important to continue a parliamentary system that the British Government was following before independence… Mthanhany had hands-on experience working in this system before independence. This system adopted by the constituent assembly was also because of the prevailing situation of partition and the nature of society. India is a diverse country with land of different cultures, ethnicity, caste and religion. The constituent assembly thought that it was very important to accommodate the interests of all so that no section or region of the country is left behind and every region should be represented adequately, they should have the right to express their interests and be part of the law-making process. Someone who is a resident of a place will know what is best for people of that place rather than someone sitting in Delhi. If the law is being made which is affecting the particular province it would be better if the resident of that place is part of the law-making process.
The constituent assembly did not adopt the presidential system as they wanted to make government accountable to Parliament and they also kept in mind the diversity prevailing in India, they wanted to establish a system in which decision making power is not concentrated in few hands and executive to be both stable and responsible Government. The Presidential system ensures only stability but lacks responsibility and would lead to conflict between legislature and executive which was something the Constituent assembly wanted to avoid, as India was a newly born country, many decisions were to be taken and important laws were to be framed after debates and deliberations hence it was necessary to adopt the parliamentary system. The presidential system would divide the country and they wanted to keep India united as some provinces wanted to part ways with India, so they thought that the parliamentary system was best as it ensures all interests would be represented and would ensure unity and integrity of the nation.
In India elections in current times are more fought like a presidential election where a CM or PM candidate is seen as their candidate rather than a particular candidate contesting for their constituency which is not the model adopted by our constitution.
An individual who is head of the party becomes the centre of election campaigns rather than a collective party with candidates representing the constituency from where they are contesting. It is a leader of the party whose name is being used to seek votes. The posters used are of the party leader rather than the particular candidate. In all political rallies and meetings, the leader of the party is the centre of attraction. The particular candidate of a constituency is completely out of the picture during the election campaign. It looks as if an individual leader is being voted in all constituencies, not the particular candidate contesting, the individual leader is given all the credit for the performance of the party and is held accountable for its failure.
The reasons for this practice are that political parties with help of media portraits a candidate to be the face of their campaign. The Parties use social media which is very popular among Indian youth, they use it in brainwashing people especially those living in rural areas. The parties tend to show PM candidate as the leader of the nation and try to hide some incompetent candidates making it a presidential election where a single individual takes the centre stage and is the centre of attraction.
This phenomenon had taken place in the 1971 general election, the slogan of the election campaign was to remove Indira Gandhi to save the country. Decision-making power was concentrated in few hands as Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and a few of their close aides took all decisions. This had disappeared for few decades during the time of the coalition era. This has emerged again since the 2014 general election in which BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was pitted against Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi. This was more prominent in the 2019 general election in which the election campaign was individualistic and social media played an important role in making the election campaign like a Presidential one. It seemed the election was between two individuals, in all constituencies not among the particular candidates.
This is seen even in state assembly elections even CM is not the face of the election campaign rather it is someone from Delhi who is the leader of that party. In some state elections where there is a strong and popular leader of regional parties, they become the face of the campaign like Mamata Banerjee for TMC in West Bengal, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi of DMK and AIDMK in Tamil Nadu during their time.
People’s response has strengthened the parties propaganda and people are following this model blindly. The people are of the opinion that they are voting for Modi or Rahul rather than the candidate contesting in their constituency. The surveys conducted during the election as part of the opinion and exit poll clearly show that people want a strong leader, someone who is capable of providing stable government, take decisions and lead the whole nation. They are looking at national leader rather than their representative for developing the country and solving their local problems. It looks like India is following the presidential system so the question appears that should India adopt a Presidential system? There are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration like diversity prevailing in India; Would this system be able to accommodate the interests of all sections and regions? Would this bring about both responsible and stable Government which Constitution makers wanted to ensure?. It appears that the Presidential system does not fulfil these criteria. The presidential system would divide the nation and would lead to majoritarian rule. Even Professor Ramesh Thakur prefers to keep the parliamentary system alive as it acts as a stabilizer and prevents dictatorial tendencies. We should continue with the Parliamentary system as it suits our country, and any kind of change might backfire, lead to a lot of problems. People in India seemed to be practising the Presidential system, and it appears that people do not know the meaning and significance of the parliamentary election. This type of practice is dangerous to democracy as it is not according to the values of the basic structure of our constitution. This practice prevalent among Indian voters should be changed by arousing the meaning of parliamentary election. The political parties and media print, electronic and social media should work in bringing about this change among people.
By Shubodh HM