President’s concern at ‘Presidential’ form of Governance

‘United we stand, divided we fall’, reminds President Pranab Mukherjee while voicing concern at growing deviations from the Parliamentary system of Governance

Photo courtesy:
Photo courtesy:

NH Political Bureau

What are the consequences and ‘long term implications’ of moving away from the classic tenets of a Parliamentary system? Without naming or referring to the NDA Government or Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday voiced his concern at the increasingly Presidential form of Governance being followed in the country.

“It would be wise for succeeding generations of leadership in India to learn from Mrs Gandhi’s strengths as well as her mistakes,” held the President, who reminded people that in a Parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is first among equals. “It is my belief that a country as complex and diverse as India can be administered only through delegation of authority,” the President reiterated while addressing the India Today conclave at Mumbai on Friday.

Some of the other striking points made in the Presidential address were the following:

  • It is most unfortunate that the time devoted to legislation has been gradually declining in our Parliament. To illustrate, the first Lok Sabha had 677 sittings in which 319 bills were passed. In comparison, the fourteenth Lok Sabha from 2004-2009 had 332 sittings and passed just 247 bills. The fifteenth Lok Sabha had 357 sittings and passed 181 bills while the sixteenth Lok Sabha has so far had only 197 sittings and passed only 111 bills (upto the 10th session).
  • Constitutional provisions must be respected in letter and spirit by all of us, especially those in positions of authority and in public life. Executive action and legislation must indeed conform to the Constitution but going beyond that, day to day activities of political parties and all those associated with it must also conform to the Constitution and its provisions as interpreted by our judiciary. The tendency of individuals and groups taking the law into their own hands should be strongly resisted.
  • One of the principal lessons India’s history teaches us is that united we stand, divided we fall. Our past is replete with examples of how we have fallen when we failed to act unitedly and how we achieved wonders when we acted in unison. It will be impossible for us to achieve the progress that we seek, if in our country man turns against man in the name of religion, caste or politics.
“The country also needs a strong Opposition standing guard. Nehru used to say “I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say “yes” to one man, I want a strong opposition.””
President Pranab Mukherjee

  • India has always celebrated diversity and debate. We are a nation of 1.3 billion people who stand together as one nation, united under one flag and one Constitution. Over 100 languages are spoken in India on a daily basis. All major religions and ethnic groups have co-existed in peace and harmony for centuries. Free speech and expression is not only guaranteed by our Constitution but has been an important characteristic of our civilisation and tradition. Indians are known to be argumentative, but never intolerant.
  • In a Parliamentary democracy, we must always guard against majoritarianism. Those in power must involve and take the entire nation along with them at all times. Consultation and consensus is the best and often, only way forward. I was extremely happy to hear Prime Minister Modi speak about the need for humility in the aftermath of his party’s victory in recent elections to Uttar Pradesh and other State Assemblies. He asserted that while electoral verdicts are determined on the basis of ‘Bahumat’, the States will be governed on the principle of ‘Sarvamat’. This is indeed India’s tradition and what the large majority of our people desire to see in action.
  • The country also needs a strong Opposition standing guard. Nehru used to say "I do not want India to be a country in which millions of people say "yes” to one man, I want a strong opposition.”

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Published: 18 Mar 2017, 4:12 PM