A debate has been going on whether government of India should be switched over from the Parliamentary system to the Presidential system in which the President is directly elected for a fixed tenure. He functions as the nation's chief executive, unhampered by the Legislature in taking administrative decisions.
Why India Opted For Parliamentary System?
Our founding fathers opted for parliamentary system due to three major reasons. First, India was accustomed to this system and thus it would suit the conditions of this country better, second, to avoid the rifts between the executive and legislature common in the US; and third, the continental vastness of the country and the diversity of its culture. They did consider the Presidential form also, but discarded it as being too reminiscent of the kings and emperors who had given us a taste of feudal governance. Hence, the choice of system was adopted after careful consideration. A suggestion was canvassed during the drafting of the Constitution as to whether the President should have a committee of advisers, like the Privy Council, separate from the Council of Ministers.
B.N. Rau who played a very important part in the drafting of the Constitution suggested that the Constitution should provide for a Council and whose advice would be available to the President whenever he chose to obtain it in matters of national importance in which he is required to act in his discretion. This suggestion ultimately did not find favour.
Failures of Parliamentary System
In fact, the success and failure of a system depends mainly upon the equality and calibre of the human material which operates it. Our political system worked quite well during the first decade or so following independence, largely because of the dominance of powerful personalities then at the helm of affairs. Needless to say, the same does not hold good now. Political life in the country has fallen below standards. Never before has there been so rapid a decline in moral and ethical values as in the recent past. Horse trading, shifting of loyalties for personal pelf and profits, bargaining for offices, raising party funds by questionable means invariable preoccupy our leaders, leaving them hardly with any time for the service of the people. Our experience of the last 20 years has shown clearly that the present parliamentary form has ceased to function properly. Prime Ministers have come and gone in rapid succession.
General elections have failed to return any one party with an overall majority; elected MPs and MLAs are up for sale: despite laws against defection, party hopping has become a common practice. Parliament is not doing with degree of competence or commitment what it is primarily meant to do: legislate. Barring exceptions, those who get elected to the apex democratic institution are neither trained in law-making nor do they seem to have an inclination to develop the necessary knowledge and competence in their profession. At times, Parliament resembles akhara (arena for wrestling bouts). There is large scaled criminalisation of politics and subversion of electoral system by money power, muscle power and vote bank considerations of castes and communities.
Case For Presidential System
After the virtual end of the one-party dominance (That of Congress Party) at the centre, a debate is going on to change over to Presidential system of government. Following features favour Presidential system.
Case Against Presidential System
A political system on merits alone is not enough to determine its suitability for a country's present needs and requirements. Unless all the social, economic, political and cultural factors are brought within the compass of constitutional change, a mere shift from one system to another is not going to suffice.
Moreover, it is not guaranteed that under presidential system, the ministers shall be appointed only on merits because the ideological considerations are bound to influence the decisions. There may be susceptibility to sycophancy. The majority of voters in India are illiterate and will not be able to know the capacity of the Presidential candidate. They will be exploited by dishonest politicians.
Presidential form will further dilute federalism and will entail greater centralisation of power. Extreme centralisation of power leads to a lack of accountability and gives rise to arrogance which, in turn, breeds irresponsibility. Power is not shared and its excesses are not subject to checks and balances. Central authoritarianism can lead to fragmentation. Pakistan is the glaring example before us. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka too came close to disintegration during such regimes. We have the examples of Idi Amin, President of Uganda: Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan: Ferdinand Marcos, President of the Philippines: who did not admit office on the basis of election results.
All of them were removed from the scene either by death or by a coup. Marcos amassed wealth, Nixon was embroiled in Watergate scandal, John F.
Kennedy's decision to invade Cuba drew flank. During the period of Lyndon Johnson another invasion was attempted on Vietnam, and this had happened by bypassing Parliament. On the other hand, it is in our parliamentary system that Indira Gandhi was ousted from power in 1977 and voted back in 1980.
History is replete with instances which in almost all countries (barring the US and France) saw the presidential systems degenerate into dictatorship, while the Third World has had to face the worst forms of tyranny in the name of Presidential system.
This is, however, not the whole story so far as India and its politicians are concerned. The real concern on the politicians and parties who oppose the presidential system is that it will spell the doom on their bargaining power in grabbing the loaves and fishes of political power. Yes it will do so, and that is a very good reason to change the existing dispensation. By eliminating the need for majority support in Parliament, the Presidential system will put an end to the prevailing cattle-fair politics and thus ensure governmental stability.
Except in few countries, the Parliamentary system has failed. But the democratic Presidential system has even fewer successes to boast. Latin American systems, influenced by the US Presidential system, have tended to become dictatorships.
There is nothing basically wrong with our system. Our Constitution does not need any fundamental transformation. What this country needs is not systemic change, but such practical reforms as will create an ordered state. For realizing this objective, the following measures are suggested: