PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY FRUSTRATES POLITICAL EXECUTIVES
ECI IS NOT AVERSE TO THE IDEA
The idea of one nation, one election has been floated by the prime minister of the largest parliamentary democracy on earth. All Parties Conference convened on 19 June mulled over it, recommending setting up a panel to look further into the matter. Election Commission of India is not averse to the idea. Those who oppose, they do so out of fear of dominance of one party in both state assemblies and parliament. Or its opposition comes from the idea that it is not feasible. Some linked it with art. 356, others raised questions about situations arising out of no-confidence motion.
While people have questioned its feasibility, what is strange, that nobody, with the sole exception of Sitaram Yechury, has questioned the legitimacy of the idea itself. The very idea of one nation one election is a big attack on the foundation of parliamentary democracy. If India is a parliamentary democracy, then the idea of one nation one election is not made for it.
One who suggests that there should be one election for both parliament and state assemblies is either displaying complete unawareness of the essence of parliamentary democracy, or somewhere believes that India has no obligation towards continuing as parliamentary democracy and it should take baby steps towards becoming a presidential form of government.
The oldest parliamentary democracy on earth is the UK and the earliest presidential form of democracy is US. Indian nationalists learnt the ropes of liberal democracy from British colonial masters , who promised gradual introduction of responsible government in India.
This responsible government was in fact a parliamentary form of government and leadership of independent India opted for it because it promised a popular control over the executive. They had seen the so called enlightened despotism of executive under viceroy and they believed that only an executive truly responsible to parliament shall be a guarantee of liberties of people.
This proved a better choice. India was one of the few former colonies which did not fall in the trap of neo-colonial one man rule and military dictatorship. The presence of parliamentary democracy was a great bulwark against such possibilities.
CONSTITUTION DOESN’T GUARANTEE A MINIMUM ASSURED TENURE FOR MINISTERS
In this form of democracy, a party or coalition can form the government only if it has the confidence of majority in the popular house of parliament. If it loses the confidence, through no-confidence motion or fails to get budget passed, it has to resign collectively. If no other party or coalition is able to prove majority in the house, then the dissolution of house is recommended by prime minister to the president and mid-term election is announced.
The constitution does not guarantee a minimum assured tenure for members of council of ministers. The constitution does not trust the members of executive without being accountable to parliament for a single day. It is absurd to ask for a minimum fixed term of office in a responsible government. We have seen that Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to resign after 13 days tenure as prime minister in 1996, and next time it was after 13 months.
Difference of one vote in no-confidence motion led to fall of NDA government in April 1999. This is the strength of parliamentary democracy. On the other hand, presidential form offers a fixed term for the head of executive, the President. But then he is not dependent upon American congress for the security of his tenure. It is written in the constitution. Can we find any parallel security of term for prime minister in the parliamentary conventions of England or in the constitution of India.
Same is true about chief ministers in the states. They are the most vulnerable creatures. They have to enjoy the confidence of the majority in the legislative assembly to remain in office. They have to live a life under Damocles’ sword called article 356. And they have to secure the trust of party high command , if they belong to a national party.
State governments have seen a great incidence of mid-term elections in the past. This is part and parcel of Parliamentary democracy. So long as union government and state government are under parliamentary form, some of these shall definitely face mid term elections. Can we write off the possibility of death, defection, no-confidence motion, horse trading, failed floor test and many more things which make or break a state government?
After every general election, there is the possibility of hung parliament, minority government, external support , wholesale defection, disagreement over common minimum programmes etc. One or other scenario shall lead to the fall of government and premature dissolution of parliament as we have seen in 1970,1979,1991,1998 and 1999. 4th Lok Sabha, 6th Lok Sabha, 9th Lok Sabha, 11th Lok Sabha and 12th Lok Sabha could not complete five year terms. We have seen the premature end of five houses out of sixteen general elections.
This has happened in state assemblies for a greater number of times. To expect that all state assemblies shall complete their full term and their term shall coincide with the term of Lok Sabha is either to show a complete naivety towards the functioning of parliamentary government, or a silent move towards weakening its fundamental character.
In India , democracy keeps the grand wheel of election running. General elections, state elections, by elections, Rajya Sabha election, local democracy elections and many more types. To averse the idea of vast plurality of elections amounts to saying that democracy has served its purpose, all the best mortals have been chosen and now we need an election holiday of five years.
ALL ELECTIONS TO TAKE PLACE SIMULTANEOUSLY
The idea that all elections in India shall take place simultaneously is to believe That all elected governments in India shall be elected and dissolved according to a fixed date on the calendar, like the election of American President. When elections go by a fixed date of calendar, the idea of responsible government becomes a dead letter. Parliamentary form of government is part of the basic structure of the constitution. It cannot be amended by parliament , according to Keshvanand Bharti judgment 1973.
This move at one nation one election is a move towards weakening this basic structure. Its feasibility should not be explored, its legitimacy should be challenged.