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The ruckus in the Parliament over the Lokpal Bill makes one to think that whether this Westminster form of democracy is anymore suitable for India.

The Westminster or Parliamentary form of Democracy has its roots in the United Kingdom.  In this form of democracy there is a Head of the State(The President in India) and a Head of the Government(the Prime-minister in India) and legislature. The Legislature can be unicameral(single House) or bicameral(two houses).  The lower House consists of elected representatives of the people and the Upper House consists of the representatives from States on proportionate basis.   The Lower House consists of Government benches(called Treasury Benches) and opposition benches. All the Bills are to be passed by both the houses through a simple majority whereas, any amendment in the Constitution can be brought about by two-thirds majority.

The Head of the Government i.e. the Prime-minister holds the maximum power in the Westminster model of democracy. The prime-minister is elected by the Elected Representatives of the People. Generally, the leader elected Party having the majority in the Parliament is designated as the Prime-minister. In case, no party is having majority, the group of parties coming together in an alliance and having majority can elect their Prime-minister.

The main shortcomings of the Westminster Model of democracy are :-

1. The Head of the Government is not chosen by the people directly. The people only  choose the party to vote for and the majority party then chooses the Prime-minister.

2. In case no party wins the majority, the system becomes unstable and the Government is at the mercy of smaller parties.

3. A good and popular leader cannot become the Prime-minister of the country just because its Party doesn’t have wherewithal(like money) to win a majority.

4. The people are forced to accept an unpopular person as the leader of the country just because his party has won the majority.

5. There is no limit i.e. the number of terms for which a person can become Prime-minister.

The other system of Democracy is Presidential system which has been adopted and perfected by the USA. In a Presidential System the people elect the President by voting for the candidate directly(leaving aside the fact that in USA that the votes are not counted directly but indirectly through an electoral college). The people also cast the votes for their representatives separately. That is to say that in Westminster model, there is only One Vote whereas in Presidential model, there are two votes. The President then forms his government through politicians or experts in the field. The political party to which the President belongs may or may not have majority in the House of people. If the party has majority ,then the task of the President becomes a bit easier. Otherwise, he uses his good offices to get the Bills passed in the House of People.

India has chosen Westminster form of democracy because of its colonial connection with Britain. However, in a diverse country like India, Presidential form of democracy is more suitable because of the following :-

a. A leader from a smaller state like Goa has very little chance of becoming the PM as compared to the leader from a larger state like Uttar Pradesh.

b. Very able Regional Leaders cannot become the PM because their party is confined to one region only.

c. The person whom the people in general want to become their leader cannot do so because he is not backed by a political party large enough to attain majority.

d. The Westminster Model has resulted in Dynastic politics in India as political leaders transfer their legacy to their kith and kin and not to the party as such.

We have all seen the plight of Lokpal Bill in our system of democracy. Let us now see how it would have moved in a Presidential form of democracy :-

· There was no need for Anna Hazare to resort to agitation or put force on the government of any kind.

· Any MP could have picked the Jan Lokpal Bill(made by Team Anna) and introduced in the Parliament for debate. The MP had to mobilise media and other channels to create a public awareness so that the other MPs take up the Bill seriously for discussions.

· The MPs after dissecting the Bill had powers to pass it as it is or reject it or pass it with amendments. The Bill cannot just linger on indefinitely because there was no political consensus amongst the parties.

· The Bill would have gone to the President for his accent. The President had veto powers to reject it or refer it back to the Parliament for modifications.

· Thereafter, the President has to either give his accent or veto it altogether.

There was no need of such blood-bath or so many lost days of the Parliament and the most acceptable form of the Bill could have emerged.

Its therefore time now to start the debate whether India should switch over to Presidential form of Government.

By Sanjay Kumar(the author is pusuing a Masters Course in Corporate Laws).


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