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Monday, June 21, 2021

Explained Ideas: Why it’s time for India to adopt the presidential form of government

Shashi Tharoor says the disrepute into which the political process has fallen in India, and the cynicism about the motives of politicians, can be traced to the workings of the parliamentary system.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 27, 2020 9:06:17 am
Shashi Tharoor, Tharoor on parliamentary system, India parliamentary system, parliament, indian express A view of the Rajya Sabha during the oath taking ceremony of newly elected members, at Parliament House in New Delhi on July 22, 2020. (Express Photo: Anil Sharma)

“The parliamentary system we borrowed from the British has not worked in Indian conditions. It is time to demand a change,” writes Shashi Tharoor of the Indian National Congress.

“The facts are clear: Our parliamentary system has created a unique breed of legislator, largely unqualified to legislate, who has sought election only in order to wield executive power. It has produced governments dependent on a fickle legislative majority, who are therefore obliged to focus more on politics than on policy or performance. It has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individuals it wants to vote for but not necessarily which parties. It has spawned parties that are shifting alliances of selfish individual interests, not vehicles of coherent sets of ideas. It has forced governments to concentrate less on governing than on staying in office, and obliged them to cater to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions,” writes Tharoor and concludes “the parliamentary system has failed us”.

Shashi Tharoor, Tharoor on parliamentary system, India parliamentary system Shashi Tharoor says “the parliamentary system has failed us”. (Express Illustration by C R Sasikumar)

“The case for a presidential system has, in my view, never been clearer,” he writes.

A directly elected chief executive in New Delhi and in each state, instead of being vulnerable to the shifting sands of coalition support politics, would have stability of tenure free from legislative whim, be able to appoint a cabinet of talents, and above all, be able to devote his or her energies to governance, and not just to government. The Indian voter will be able to vote directly for the individual he or she wants to be ruled by, and the president will truly be able to claim to speak for a majority of Indians rather than a majority of MPs. At the end of a fixed period of time, the public would be able to judge the individual on performance in improving the lives of Indians, rather than on political skill at keeping a government in office.

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