From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Parliamentary vs presidential system
Mains level : Paper 2- Issues with the parliantary system of government
The article brings out the flaws in the parliamentary system of government in India and makes the case for the parliamentary system.
Problems with our parliamentary system
- Our parliamentary system has created a unique breed of legislator, largely unqualified to legislate.
- Those legislators has sought election only in order to wield executive power.
- It has produced governments dependent on a fickle legislative majority.
- Fickle majority leads the government to focus more on politics than on policy or performance.
- Current system has distorted the voting preferences of an electorate that knows which individuals it wants to vote for but not necessarily which parties.
- It has given rise to 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.
Problems with party system in India
- Parliamentary system, devised in Britain — is based on traditions which simply do not exist in India.
- The parties in England are clearly defined, each with a coherent set of policies and preferences that distinguish it from the next.
- In India, a party is all-too-often a label of convenience which a politician adopts and discards frequently.
- So, a politician changing a party is not treated as an unusual event in India.
- In the absence of a real party system, the voter chooses not between parties but between individuals.
- The candidates are usually chosen on the basis of their caste, their public image or other personal qualities.
- So, voters vote for a legislature not to legislate but in order to form the executive.
4 Problems with choosing executive from Parliament
- 1) It limits executive posts to those who are electable rather than to those who are able.
- Though he can bring some members in through the Rajya Sabha, but it too has been largely the preserve of full-time politicians, so the talent pool has not been significantly widened.
- 2) It puts a premium on defections and horse-trading. The anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem.
- 3) Legislation suffers. Most laws are drafted by the executive — in practice by the bureaucracy.
- The ruling party inevitably issues a whip to its members in order to ensure unimpeded passage of a bill.
- The parliamentary system does not permit the existence of a legislature distinct from the executive.
- Accountability of the government to the people, through their elected representatives, is weakened.
- 4) For those parties who do not get into government Parliament or Assembly serves as a theatre for the demonstration of their power to disrupt.
Case for presidential system
- A directly elected chief executive at Centre and State would be free from vulnerabilities of coalition support politics, would have the stability of tenure free from a legislative whim.
- He/she will be able to appoint a cabinet of talents, 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.
- The president will truly be able to claim to speak for a majority of Indians rather than a majority of MPs.
The risk of dictatorship
- The only serious objection to the presidential system is that it carries with it the risk of dictatorship.
- The fear is of an imperious president, immune to parliamentary defeat and impervious to public opinion, ruling the country by fiat.
- But under the current parliamentary system, a leader with absolute majority and subservient legislature could act in the same manner.
Consider the question “Examine the differences between the presidential system and the parliamentary system of government. Do you think that the parliamentary system has served well in the Indian context?”
With the needs and challenges of one-sixth of humanity before our leaders, we must have a democracy that delivers progress to our people.