Our democracy has flaws. But which democracy is flawless? What is happening in the United States today?

 

Some days back a prominent Congress MP of the Lok Sabha, in a newspaper article propounded the stale theory that India should abandon Parliamentary democracy, and adopt the Presidential system. This absurd suggestion was hawked by B.K. Nehru and L.K. Jha about 40 years ago, both ICS, and one or two other lightweights. Sarva Shri Braj Kumar Nehru and Lakshmikant Jha were competent civil servants, pillars of the Raj, indifferent to the freedom movement.

Their hair-brained idea was promptly dismissed by Indira Gandhi on the advice of her Principal Secretary, P.N. Haksar.

I have been a member of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, member of the Congress Working Committee. Hence I am more than familiar with the functioning of Indian democracy.

Our democracy has flaws. Which democracy is flawless? What is happening in the United States today? In Britain it was democracy at home, despotism in the Empire.

I am not for a moment condoning the highly unparliamentary conduct by members, going into the well of the House, shouting slogans, interrupting the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, frequent adjournment of both Houses, poor attendance, disrupting question hour, do no credit to offending members, who are always in a minority but do maximum damage by their rowdyism. The quality of debates has deteriorated.

Regardless, Indian democracy works, has deep roots in the political soil of the country. Elections are held every five years. Not even 0.5% results are challenged.

Let us now discuss the country opting for the Presidential system. What will happen to the existing Constitution? For something so drastic, it will be thrown into the waste paper basket or drastically amended. For a two third majority will be required in both Houses. Or will a new Constituent Assembly be established? Which authority will do so? The President? He would be instantly impeached. Will the armed forces be a party to demolishing democracy? Why should they not take over? In short, establish a military dictatorship. Will there be lasting unity among the armed forces? Obviously, the Army Chief will be number one. For how long? Will the Air and Navy Chiefs oust him? Then what? Chaos! Why? Because a majority of 32 state Assemblies will not fall in line.

Suppose for a moment that Parliament votes for a Presidential system, will it be an uncomplicated exercise to elect him or her? For a moment let us accept a President is elected. How long will his term be? Five years. Seven years. Once in Rashtrapati Bhavan, he or she could refuse to step down. If the individual is a forceful one he would refuse to step down. There was a time dictatorship outnumbered democracies. This is no longer so.

Indira Gandhi promulgated the Emergency. To begin with, the people welcomed it. Soon they were disillusioned, angry and outraged. Indira Gandhi lost her own Lok Sabha seat. Democracy won.

From what I have written above it should be clear that the people of India will not accept a Presidential system.

At the moment efforts are being made to take democracy lightly. Those doing so will pay the price at the next Lok Sabha elections. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is having a ball. It is now being said he and his MLA supporters have vacated the Fairmont hotel and proceeded to Jaisalmer. I presume the jaunt will be Mount Abu. Not a bad place to have fun. How have the mighty fallen.

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A word about Covid-19 pandemic. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladesh Nobel Laureate said the other day, “The pandemic has given a chance to reflect and take bold decisions…In a normal situation we will not pay attention to important consequences of the virus. We are so busy making money…”

He added that an autonomous rural economy can be built parallel to the urban economy.