There are two main models of governance that can be there in any democratic system. One is the parliamentary form of government where the head of the state is different and distinct from the head of the executive. The executive is headed by the Prime Minister while the President acts as the head of the state. However, in such a system the Prime Minister is the real head while the President acts only as a nominal head, not having any significant powers of decision making. As against this, in the Presidential form the President is both the head of the state as well as the executive. He is elected directly by the people and has a fixed term. The United States is one of the major countries of the world successfully practicing the Presidential form of governance. India, on the other hand has been advocating the Parliamentary form of government ever since the inception of its democracy.

However, politicians continue to debate the appropriateness of one form of governance over the other. While critics may feel that India would do well to shift to a presidential form of governance, it would be wise to analyze the merits and demerits of both the systems before arriving at any such conclusion. The main advantage said to be associated with the presidential form is that in it the President enjoys a wider range of powers and need not be dominated by the whims and fancies of the ruling government. He has the power to veto and is directly elected by the citizens of the country. Also, the President is appointed for a fixed term thus lending more stability to the government as opposed to a Prime Minister who can be removed at anytime through a ‘no-confidence’ motion passed against him by the majority of the Parliament. Though, the President can also be removed through impeachment proceedings against him, but evidently such proceedings are highly unusual and rare. Such instability in governance has been observed in several parliamentary democracies like Italy, Canada, France etc.   Further, it is said that the Presidential form helps in quick and prompt decision making unlike the Parliamentary system where the Prime Minister is obliged to take into account the opinion of all the members of the house before taking any decision. In this regard, Professor Dicey has noted that the Parliamentary form of government fails to give effect to prompt and bold decisions at the time of emergency or crisis thus leading to delay in decision making. Also, in the Presidential structure there is a clear separation of powers between the legislature and the executive that is essential for the success of any democracy.

While the above mentioned aspects may make Parliamentarianism seem an unattractive and unviable system of governance, however it may not be correct to conclude so. The type of governance that a country chooses to follow also has a lot to do with its culture, background and demography. In a country like India, which is the largest democracy in the world in terms of its population and diversity, a Presidential system may not be well equipped to represent the varied interests of the different communities and cultures existing within our society. Rather, only a parliamentary structure where there are multiple parties and power is not concentrated in any single individual can be reflective of an efficient and representative democracy. Moreover, there are several advantages associated with a parliamentary system that are absent in the presidential form of governance. For instance, the Prime Minister can be removed at any point of time (through a ‘no-confidence’ motion) if he is not performing or meeting the expectations of the people. As opposed to this, in a Presidential system the President can be removed only at the end of his tenure or alternatively through impeachment proceedings which are very difficult to succeed. Further, the Prime Minister is always bound by the will of the majority party to which he belongs preventing any scope of a dictatorial rule by a single individual. The threat of a vote of no-confidence acts as an adequate check on the exercise of arbitrary powers by the Prime Minister. Also, since the Prime Minister is the representative of the majority party, he can take decisions quickly with the support of his party. The chances of domination by the opposition who do not form the majority in the house are bleak and remote. Further, the absence of a clear separation of powers between the legislature and the executive implies that they act in close cooperation and co-ordination leading to smooth functioning of the government. A parliamentary government is also more accountable to its citizens as the Prime Minister has to regularly give account of his decisions in the cabinet meetings.

Thus, clearly the Parliamentary form of governance offers a lot of advantages which one would be hard pressed to find in the Presidential system. Although, both the systems have their own merits and demerits, but evidence shows that most successful democracies around the world are proponents of the Parliamentary system. Needless to say, the type of governance to be followed is to be determined after taking into account the specific attributes of the country in question. What may be best for one country may not be so for another. Clearly, India’s ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversities do not allow us to opt for a presidential form of governance. As noted by the renowned scholar Ram Narayan Prasad “In India’s current political scenario a presidential form of government may easily degenerate into totalitarian/autocratic governance that must be avoided at all costs.”




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