Westminster Model-Lies ,Foibles and Follies
“एमपी को ना चुनेंगे वोटर ? फिर वो चुने हुए एमपी अपना नेता चुनेंगे जो पीएम बनेगा . कि मोदी जी ही 543 जगह से खड़े हो रहे हैं अबकी बार ?”
The Kanhaiya -Kejariwal school of political thought would have us believe that Indians shall be voting in the upcoming General Elections only to vote for their local MPs.These MPs who would then be choosing their leader,the PM, to head the next government .This is a very simplistic,and a rather devious representation of how the system actually works.
Neither is this a new tactic.Nehru and Indira baiters and Socialists used to parrot these same lines till 1970s. The logic remains the same.
In reality,the President appoints that leader as the Prime Minister who he believes enjoys the confidence of the Lower House.But it is also a fact that all the 543 elected MPs do not physically assemble anywhere to elect their leader ,before the PM is actually appointed.The first session of Lok Sabha is called only after the government is formed at the Centre.Hence the contention that the directly elected MPs choose the PM rings hollow.
Political Parties Wield Real Power
With political parties wielding the real power and acquiring the central space in our political system ,esp. with strong anti-defection laws in place ,suggesting that a collection of individuals (MPs) has an independent voice does not seem accurate.
India is a Union of States,and not a union of 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.These are just electoral units ,not even proper administrative structures .To expect such a large number of freshly elected MPs to organically come up with a choice of PM on their own seems laughable.India is afterall not a panchayat,and the PM is not just another sarpanch.These 543 can be divided into groupings on the basis of representatives from particular states ,or of political parties.
Why should the voters rely upon centrifugal forces (local issues) while choosing a central government is also a key question ? Afterall,he is voting on the issues like development ,national security and economic policies ,and he knows well that his MP has had and would also have limited influence over macropolicy framework.
If the Westminster Model wanted the electorate to elect just MPs, and only these elected individuals to have a decisive say in running the country,Britain would not have institutionalised the Party System.It is a fact that political parties form the bedrock of Britain’s parliamentary model .When citizens vote for the candidates in their respective parliamentary seats,they also vote for the party symbol.This is an indication of their wish as to which party should govern the country.
Political parties were not mentioned in the original Indian Constitution. In 1985, the anti-defection Amendments both recognised parliamentary political parties and regulated the shifting affiliations and votes of their elected members. From 1989, a new provision (Section 29A) in the Representation of the People Act, 1951, enabled the `registration’ of political parties.Now,Indian parliamentary model also gives primacy to parties in the political system.
The leader of the party which is asked by the monarch/President to form the government becomes the PM.The leaders of those parties who fail to win ,generally resign from their posts.This is indirectly a reflection of the electorate’s verdict over the leadership .Westminster system ,because of the presence of the party system,cannot be dubbed as a perfectly indirect system .
It is very obvious that in Britain ,voters know beforehand who their PM gonna be if they vote for any particular candidate ,who is contesting on a particular party ticket.This is a direct referendum on the choice of PM of the country.
How are the Candidates chosen ?
Political parties have their own machineries in place to chooses their candidates.Primaries are not held, either in India or in Britain (held limited experiments but gave up ) , to ascertain party members’ wishes .As such,the High command surely exerts total influence over the options made available before the voters and their eventual choices .When franchise is exercised,it is these decisions of the High Command that are put to vote.
Many star candidates,like Nusrat Jahan,Dev and Mimi Chakraborty from Trinamool in Bengal,Gautam Gambhir in Delhi and Paresh Rawal in Gujarat and others like them get party tickets to fight elections.Voters hardly expect these stars to deliver in their constituencies,but vote for their parties and party leaders nevertheless.A vote for Nusrat Jahan is a vote for Mamata. Showing confidence in Gambhir means giving one more seat to make Modi PM of India.One doesn’t expect these star candidates to exercise an independent choice in this regard .
Family members of political leaders,defectors,imported candidates from outside a constituency are also nominated to contest.Money,muscle,caste and religion also play a key role in selection of candidates.One cannot expect or trust MPs elected through such a process to decide independently who the PM of the country would be.This is a question that must be put to vote directly.
What is an MPs Job ?
They form a part of the legislature,and some go onto join the Executive as well.Since political parties call all the shots,in discharge of both legislative (through whips and anti-defection laws) as well as executive functions (formation of ministries ),an individual MP virtually has no independent voice (or even use).Before the MPLADS scheme was introduced in early 1990s,MPs didn’t even have any direct developmental role to play.Even the current expenditure of limit of Rs 5 crore per MP per year is hardly substantial to be taken seriously.
In effect,an MP in a party system is chosen to follow a particular political programme and formulate certain policies ,which represent the official stance of his party.Hence a voter is not just directly voting to elect an MP,but also to put a party in a power .The PM is also being indirectly chosen by the people in the process.
First Past the Post
That one is just electing his local MP would have been clearer had the ‘ first past the post’ system not been in vogue .Indian voter just kicks the frontrunner into the House ,as he represents the wishes of maximum number of people in a constituency.A run-off would have put the parliamentary seat into primacy.It would have sent a straightforward message to voters that they would primarily be choosing an MP for their seat,who would then play his part in electing the PM.
Parliamentary System &India
Parliamentary system is more suited to countries having homogeneous demographics,and limited number of linguistic identities. India has different ground realities than Britain,Australia and Canada.Our huge diversity gets expressed in the formation of multiple regional parties ,catering to local aspirations.Parliamentary system works well in case of bi-or triparty systems. As such, Presidential form would have been more suited to India,which is a Union of states.
We chose the more federal-oriented Parliamentary system ,despite the unitary bias of our Constitution.Perhaps the Constituent Assembly didn’t prefer a Presidential strongman at the helm.Our nascent democracy was not ready for it.But gradually ,with the decline of one dominant party and rise of regional parties,unstable coalitions became a cause for concern.It was then that BJP started the practice of declaring its PM candidate.This also takes care of the desire of a vast population to have a strong Centre with a strong Executive Head .Hence Indian polity remains heavily indebted to the Westminster Parliamentary system ,but in practice also reflects the desire for a strong leadership.