Shutdown in Trump’s US: Why India shouldn’t be presidential system
New Delhi, Jan 17: The United States, often revered as the world's most effective democracy is in a rattled state of affair. The government of the nation is witnessing a shutdown extending for almost a month, thanks to a prestige battle for President Donald Trump who has locked horns with the Congress over the funding of his pet wall along the US border with Mexico to prevent infiltration. The wall has been one of President Trump's top electoral promise ahead of the 2016 election and not being able to fulfil it means a loss of face for the Republican among his supporters.
The continuing government shutdown in the US which has started taking toll on the economy now and not many are foreseeing a quick end to the stalemate, given the uniqueness of the political milieu that the US has in the era of Trump.
Taking a cue from the stalemate of a battle between the executive and legislature in the US, should we yet consider the presidential form of government to be a better alternative than the parliamentary one?
Difficult to say yes.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who also make it his routine work to attack everything that has a connection with the bygone British rule in India in a bid to revive the brand of nationalism that the Grand Old Party was known for as a counter narrative to the BJP's cultural nationalism, is strongly in favour of starting a presidential form of government.
One of Tharoor's logic that with the presidential system in place, the head of the government would not have to run for campaigns in state polls and devote more time to what he should: run the administration. But there are more factors that also demand that a parliamentary system is more suitable for India than a presidential one.
In India, it's parties that mobilise social expressions
It is a different challenge altogether for India to give vent to the political ambitions of its socio-economic diversity. Unless there are parties to mobilise the electoral energy which lies in communities, castes and religious groups, elections in India are not going to be successful. There is no denying the fact that seeing our countrymen vote for an individual directly to become the chief executive as the president will be a thing of glory but given India's social realities, expecting such thing is too far from the reality.
In the US, we have seen how a 'short circuit' in the country's politics has produced a leadership like Trump. It is not Trump who is to be blamed for this but the prevailing mood across the nation in the wake of the rule of a black president which had done the damage. In India, we cannot just allow such an outcome for even the slightest of disagreements over social ideologies can lead to havoc, thanks to factors like caste, creed and religion.
What is India gets a Trump-like president?
It is a risk if the elected highest executive becomes a sorry by-product of a system which is upset with itself. The Americans today are seeing day in and out how their president is making things tough for them and also creating a world where the US is finding itself increasingly in isolation. Many will call Trump an exceptional phenomenon but given the damage he is inflicting during his tenure (which could be eight years), it will take a long time for his successors to clean up the mess and restore the American credibility again. The fact that the president has found his path less smooth after the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives testifies the inherent strength of a democracy where the system of checks and balances must be operational. And that strength is present in abundance in the parliamentary system that is in progress in India.
State elections may seem distracting but they are handy
What we call noise in our democracy is actually our strength because we are not mature yet to take universal decisions that fit and suit all. The state elections, even though are frequent and seem hindering for the administration, they serve as a necessary tool to remind the national rulers of their duties and responsibilities when they tend to go on an overdrive. In a system like the one India has, it is always handy to have periodical caution in place against over-ambitious rulers, irrespective of the party. At best, the timing of the elections can be aligned once again as it was till 1967 but then again, it is very difficult to forecast that it will remain so forever. But the success of our democracy lies in that chaos and no presidential system can address this better.
Indians prefer community living more than as individuals
Indians are psychologically people who love to live in communities and groups and not as individuals. In such a system, too, it is advisable to continue with the party-based parliamentary system of governance and not a presidential one which is more personalised.
Yes, there have been elections in the past where individuals were projected as faces of parties but to equate it with only an individual-dominated system will be wrong. India is too diverse and disproportionately distributed to be ruled by a single man. And even if that happens, clashes between the chief executive and the legislature over issues on which the former tends to show dictatorial tendencies will be a common phenomenon.