Concept of PM candidate militates against spirit of Parliamentary system
Posted March 22, 2014on:
BJP has declared Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi its Prime Ministerial candidate. This is the first time that a party is contesting the Lok Sabha elections with a Prime Ministerial candidate. In the past the presumption was there most of the times as to who would become the Prime Minister if a particular party came to power but never had a political party formally announced its Prime Ministerial candidate.
There is no law that prevents a political party from declaring anyone its Prime Ministerial candidate. But the concept of PM candidate militates against the spirit of Parliamentary system that we follow in this country. A direct election of the head of the government is held only in the Presidential system. The Presidential candidate, say, in the US, is directly elected by the entire nation and stays in office for four years. Sometimes the President belongs to one party while another party has a majority in the Legislature and a clash, too, occurs between the two over certain issues. But the Legislature cannot remove the President except through impeachment which is a pretty cumbersome process. The President has certain overriding powers.
In our parliamentary system, there is no provision for the direct election of the Prime Minister. He or she has to be one of the 543 members (which is the present strength) elected to Lok Sabha or one of the 233 elected members of Rajya Sabha. The executive powers, in theory, vest in the President who is also head of the Legislature as well as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. In a unique arrangement, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary in our country derive their respective powers from the Constitution.
The Constitution provides that “The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister” and that “The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President”. The Constitution also lays down that “The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People” which gives precedence to Lok Sabha over Rajya Sabha which is referred to as the House of the States.
In other words the Prime Minister belongs to the party, or an alliance of the parties, which enjoys majority in Lok Sabha. In theory as well as in practice, he or she is the leader elected by the members of the party (or an alliance of the parties) having a majority in Lok Sabha. The majority party (or alliance) can change its leader (or the Prime Minister) any time. This did happen a few times in the past.
The Constitution provides a lot of flexibility in this regard. The majority party (or alliance) may elect its leader even from its members of Rajya Sabha, though the Prime Minister will stay in office only as long as he or she has the majority support in Lok Sabha. The present Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is a member of Rajya Sabha. (He has, in fact, been never elected to Lok Sabha). Moreover, the Constitution allows the majority party (or alliance) to elect its leader (to be appointed Prime Minister) even if he or she is not a member of the either House, with the condition that he or she should get elected to either House within six months of being appointed Prime Minister. The late P V Narasimha Rao was not a member of either House when the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) elected him its leader in 1991.
While the President in the Presidential system is elected by the entire nation, the Prime Ministerial candidate is not. He or she will represent in Parliament only one of the 543 constituencies and cannot, therefore, be considered as the choice of the nation. This poses a few questions also. What if the party of the Prime Ministerial candidate gets a majority in Lok Sabha and the elected members decide to elect someone else as their leader? Can the Prime Ministerial candidate insist that he only should be elected? Or, what will happen if the party gets the majority and the Prime Ministerial candidate loses?
Besides, the nomination of Prime Ministerial candidate undermines the party as well as its president. After declaration of the Prime Ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh has been virtually reduced from the BJP president to baggage career of Narendra Modi. Not a healthy development.