The National Debate Begins

By Sushil Rajesh

A national debate has begun with the launch of Bhanu Dhamija’s book ‘Why India Needs the Presidential System’ at Delhi. Prominent personalities like senior BJP leader and MP Shanta Kumar, veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor expressed their views on the occasion. The book published by Harper Collins was released at an absorbing seminar on the same subject in which Shashi Tharoor was the keynote speaker. Two other panelists were Shanta Kumar and Kuldip Nayyar, Columnist. A highly participative audience added to the animated discussion on the subject, which has hardly ever been discussed in depth in recent times. The discussion over presidential form of government and parliamentary form is not new. Prior to independence, after independence, even till the adoption of the constitution, the efficacy of the parliamentary form of government has seen a sharp debate. Many in the constituent assembly had also voiced their reservations regarding the suitability of the parliamentary form in a vast and diverse country like India. The debate continues till date but never has any Indian or foreign scholar analysed the issue citing so many instances and forceful arguments as Bhanu Dhamija has done in his book ‘Why India Needs the Presidential System’.

India Does Need Presidential system: Experts

Shashi Tharoor in his keynote address said there is a valid reason for taking a fresh look at our system of governance. He felt that every society with fixated mindset retards its own progress. “Today we need to think with an open mind. It is the right time for the country to deliberate whether the parliamentary system should continue, or we need to have a hard look at other, more suitable alternatives to take the world’s largest democracy forward’, he said. Shanta Kumar, who has been a strong votary of the Presidential form of government for the country, felt the need to set up a statutory body to deliberate the question. The Indian system of government with over centralised powers in the hands of the national government and weak states has failed on many fronts with the result that the citizens are fast losing hope in the system, he said, adding they have come to firmly believe that this dispensation is heavily slanted in favour of the influential, and the abilities of the common man are inconsequential for the system.

Kuldip Nayar felt that the parliamentary form of government may be good for a small country like United Kingdom, with much fewer societal disparities. Commenting on Dhamija’s book, he said the writer had apparently dug deep into dozens of published works, books and constitutional documents to come up with a comprehensive argument for a relook at the parliamentary system of government. The book could easily be an independent source material for researchers as well, he added. Speaking about the book, Dhamija maintained that “One clear difference between scholars who have been advocating the presidential form of government thus far, and me, is that I have lived for 18 long years in the US during which I have not only minutely studied the system but also experienced it firsthand. On my return to India the deficiencies of the parliamentary system hit me like a bolt and I decided to act. After years of study I came to the conclusion that the existing parliamentary system was not only unsuitable for a vast and diverse country like India but also fraught with grave consequences. Behind all my arguments one can feel the depth of research and analysis I have spent years on.”