Democracy in India: Enough of Westminster Model, why not US Model?
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Democracy in India: Enough of Westminster Model, why not US Model?

January 11, 2018

By K.C. Biddappa, Retd. Senior Vice-President, ITC Ltd.

This has reference to K.B. Ganapathy’s Abracadabra in Star of Mysore dated Jan.3 regarding the perpetuation of dynastic politics in Indian democracy. How true!  Dynastic politics is in the DNA of Indian political system.

For a common, hard-working, honest and tax-paying citizen, democracy in India has very little to offer other than it is an open licence to politicians and officials to plunder public money.

It gives unbridled freedom to Government officials to draw their salary without having to attend office regularly (most of the Government offices in Mysuru has around 50-60% attendance). It gives anti-social elements the right to vandalise public and private property, to indulge in rasta-roko on highways without having to face the wrath of law. One can do anything and get away scot-free!

Democracy in India has brought in vote-bank politics which is detrimental for good administration. The Police even hesitate to take action against some sections of people, community or political groups because of the dictates of their political masters. Many heads of Government offices hesitate to take disciplinary action against corrupt and incompetent staff because of their caste and political leanings.

I have seen many employees displaying photos of their political idols on their tables. Hundreds of corrupt officials are raided and their ill-gotten wealth seized by the ACB. But then our Government does not accord sanction to prosecute because of the official’s caste or religion and political leanings. Even during riots, Police action is selective and dependent on the caste or political affiliation of the mob. One can go on and on. I believe these are the perils of democracy in India.

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As a common senior citizen, I expect reasonable service from Government agencies while paying my house tax or register a property, get a driving licence and expect a reasonable law and order situation. But unfortunately, one has to go through touts to get your job done on time. If this is democracy, then what is the alternative?

I am not for a moment advocating dictatorship. But definitely unbridled freedom to do anything against the State and go scot-free is not an ideal situation for honest, hard-working and law-abiding citizens of the country.

Westminster Parliamentary type of the British that we imitated for governance perhaps has outlived its effectiveness under Indian context. Imagine a scenario where coalition Governments at the Centre and States are held hostage by a few over-ambitious, greedy and self-serving MPs and MLAs. We have experienced this both during the earlier NDA, UPA regimes and in many State Governments. The rampant corruption and looting of Nation’s natural resources by some of the Ministers belonging to minor coalition is still fresh in our memory.

A former Prime Minister has acknowledged this as coalition compulsion! We have witnessed coalition Governments compelled to have only common minimum programme which seriously impacts the overall development of the country because of coalition compulsions. Does this kind of Parliamentary Democracy suit Indian conditions where more than 50% of the law-makers are facing criminal charges, some as heinous as rape, murder, kidnap and extortion? As if to add salt to the injury, many of them even become Ministers.

If you ask any honest citizen, I am sure he will say an emphatic NO for this kind of governance. Then what is the solution?

Given the fact that a large section of our politicians, across all the political parties are corrupt with criminal background, only a Presidential form of government like in USA may suit our corrupt Indian polity. Imagine a scenario where the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister is directly elected by the people and the prerogative of appointing the right person for the right job without being obliged to appoint our MPs and MLAs as Ministers. Is it not an ideal option?

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At one stroke, you are eliminating the corrupt and inefficient law-makers from holding Ministerial offices and looting the exchequer. People may say this will lead to dictatorship. But then the Parliament or the Assembly can always act as a check and balance as in the case of the Senate and Congress in USA.

Making law should be the business of our elected representatives as in the US Senate and Congress, apart from monitoring proper implementation of those laws.

Major policy decisions will have to be cleared by the Parliament and the respective State Assemblies as in the US and France.  At one stroke the clamour to become an MLA and MP will lose its charm and drastically reduce the electoral malpractices like offering inducement to the voter and will deter candidates with criminal background to contest elections.

This is only the feeling of an anguished senior citizen and perhaps shared by millions of honest citizens across the country. This is only a food for thought and may be the future younger, intelligent and less corrupt generation will usher in honest and clean governance and amend the Constitution at an appropriate time to bring in the Presidential form of governance. A wishful thinking?

3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Democracy in India: Enough of Westminster Model, why not US Model?”

  1. swamy says:

    US system is not perfect. Congressmen and Senators share bed with Lobbyists..but it is not bad as in India.

  2. Thethreewisemen says:

    The article written with delusion that US model is somewhat superior to Westminster model, The founding fathers of Indian constitution-particularly that great jurist Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, considered both models and picked a good mix from each. The elected president, and a part -elected upper house of parliament with wholly elected lower house of parliament. During the Watergate scandal, when Nixon refused to resign, even when this part in the breaking -in of Watergate building was proved with evidence, no constitutional expert there had an answer how to force the president out. The senate and house of representatives had no power as the former had to go through months of impeachment hearing where the president’s party senator filibustered everything. The supreme court was powerless too. In the Westminster model in India, the head of state-the president can dismiss a prime minster when evidence showed the PM to be unfit for the office, and president can be dismissed with the combined votes of both the houses of parliament.
    The problem is not the model of democracy, but the institutional corruption which pervade sin every institution as well as in the society. Are the elections at the national and state levels free and fair? Does the money play its ugly role in buying votes? These are 2 questions that need honest answers first.

  3. Shyam S says:

    A book ‘Why India Needs The Presidential System by Bhanu Dhamija’ makes a good case with cogent arguments.


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