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Focus: GS-II Governance

Understand the Indian Parliamentary System of Government

  • India is a federal (or quasi-federal) democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government largely based on the UK model.
  • India’s federal legislative branch consists of the President, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) as the upper house, and the Lok Sabha (House of the People) as the lower house.
  • If a political party or a coalition receives more than half of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha is able to form a Government.
  • Under Indian Parliamentary system of government – the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts.
  • The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the States.

Introduction to the Issues

  • Pluralist democracy is India’s greatest strength, but its current manner of operation is the source of our major weaknesses.
  • There have been legislators who are largely unqualified to legislate and who have sought election only in order to wield executive power.
  • Since governments depend on legislative majority, they obliged to focus more on politics than on policy or performance.
  • The preferences of the electoral college are distorted as they know their individual preference that they want to vote for but not necessarily which parties.
  • Spawned parties that are shifting alliances, for selfish individual interests.
  • Sometimes governments focus on catering to the lowest common denominator of their coalitions is more rather than governance.

Reasons for emerging weaknesses:

  • In the absence of a real party system, the voter chooses not between parties but between individuals, usually on the basis of their caste, their public image or other personal qualities.
  • It has come to be such a situation in India where a party is often a label of convenience which a politician adopts and discards frequently.
  • The prime minister cannot appoint a cabinet of his choice, in order to cater to the wishes of the political leaders of several parties.
  • In many cases, the anti-defection Act of 1985 has failed to cure the problem, since the bargaining has shifted to getting enough MLAs to resign to topple a government.
  • Most laws are drafted by the executive (in practice by the bureaucracy) and parliamentary input into their formulation and passage is minimal, with many bills being passed after barely a few minutes of debate.
  • MPs have to vote as their party directs, as a disagreement with the “party whip” itself attracts disqualification (Click Here to read more about the related recent The Rajasthan high court verdict). (2nd Article)
  • Many instances where the parties that failed to form government demonstrate of their power to disrupt.

Positives / Reasons for a Presidential System

  • For the individual he or she wants to be ruled by, and the president will truly be able to claim to speak for a majority of Indians rather than a majority of MPs.
  • At the end of a fixed period of time, the public would be able to judge the individual on performance in improving the lives of Indians, rather than on political skill at keeping a government in office.
  • Presidential System will ensure stability of tenure free from legislative whim.
  • The Presidential System will provide sufficient power and space to be able to appoint a cabinet of talents,
  • With the Presidential system in place, a President will be able to devote his or her energies to governance, and not just to government.

Risks of Presidential System

  • As a commanding president, immune to parliamentary defeat and unaffected by public opinion, could rule the country arbitrarily – resulting in a dictatorship.
  • If the ruling party in the presidential system loses majority midway, then there is no provision for opposition party to form the government (as available in Parliamentary system, where the president invites opposition to form government and prove majority) – This means there will disruption as new government cannot be formed without fresh elections.
  • As the executive is not part of the legislature, the presidential system increases the probability of conflicts between the executive and legislature and may lead to delays in passing of bills. (As it can be seen in the U.S. where the Senate blocks passage of bills that are coming from the House of representatives.)


A switchover to the presidential system is not possible under present constitutional scheme of India because of the ‘basic structure’ doctrine propounded by the Supreme Court in 1973.

-Source: Indian Express

December 2023