Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Do we need a Presidential System?

Margaret Alva's resignation from the AICC has cracked the Congress Party wide apart. A major question has now come to the fore: why do politicians feel that they constituency is their personal kingdom and their children/friends/relatives own it by birth?

The problem with Indian politics - indeed politics, in South Asia and to a smaller extent, in the US - is that of political dynasties. Did we rid ourselves of the British so that we can be ruled by uncouth politicians? Weren't the maharajas better then: at least they openly declared that they ruled the place? 

What should we do? Well, in my opinion, we need to look back at the formative days of Indian democracy. According to Dr. BR Ambedkar, India chose a Westminster-style of government in order to create continuous accountability of the executive - that has not worked. Where is the question of accountability when an MP/MLA expects to be elected by birth?

So now, I think it is time we think of introducing a Presidential system. I am not a 'neo-liberal' who wants to copy the US top to bottom: I am a concerned citizen who fears for the future of this country. A Presidential system will not solve the problem in the legislature: dynastic politics will continue. But at least the executive, which I believe is more important to the people, will be rid of it. At least the President will have to place himself/herself before the nation and will not be able to win a vote simply as a birthright. 

But it's easy to say all this: is it possible for India to transform into a Presidential democracy? No, at least not in the near future. But it is not impossible. Sri Lanka did it. So did a host of other countries. Latin American countries regularly draft new constitutions. History tells us that when people are absolutely frustrated with successive weak governments, revolution takes place. That will happen in India, and it might end up changing the entire system (to what I don't know) or it might lead to an end to the Union. But something will give eventually.

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