Presidential and Parliamentary systems are the two possible forms of Government in a democracy. In England there is the Parliamentary system, and it has worked so well over the years that it has become a model for a number of other countries. In the U.S.A, on the other hand, there is the Presidential form of executive, and it has been working quite successfully in that country. These two forms of government have their own distinctive characteristics and their own respective merits and demerits.
Soon after the inauguration of the Republic of Indian on 25 January, 1950, India opted for the Parliamentary form of Government, modeled closely on the English system, hoping that it will work as well as in India as it has worked in England. But in recent times it has been felt that the Presidential system was urgently needed. The issue has become a matter of hot controversy, between the ‘pro-changers’ and ‘no-changers’ amongst the intelligential, the political scientists, the jurists, the judges, the politicians, the journalists, and our highly politicized, though largely illiterate, electorate. Let is first examine the salient features of both these systems, and then form our own conclusion.
(1) In the Parliamentary system the Prime Minister and Chief Minister are totally dependent upon their respective Legislatures in the matter of selection of Ministers. On the other hand, they are excepted to select men of vision, integrity, ability, professional knowledge and practical experience. On the other, they are supposed to give adequate representation to the privilege as well as to the neglected sections of society. In case of the Centre, for instance, Prime Minister has to select her or his entire team from a small pool of 791 MP’s who, in turn, are elected in most cases due to their popularity or on account of their loyalty to the party. The Prime Minister may be bale to pick up such able and experienced ministers only if he or she is left free to make the selection from wherever deserving hands are available, and is not tied down to the small groups of MP’s who consist largely of professional politicians and sycophants.
Under the Presidential system, on the other hand, the President is not hampered by such considerations. He is not tied to, or subordinate to, the legislature. He is free to choose his cabinet of ministers from outside the members of the legislature. In this way, he can induct really competent, experienced and deserving people into the government. He can choose freely men of vision and integrity, of professional knowledge and practical experience.
(2) In the Parliamentary system for the reasons listed above, the ministers are not able to provide effective leadership. As they do not have the requite expertise, they have the requisite expertise, they have to depend largely on the civil servants, their secretaries and under-secretaries. They become mere puppets in the hands of the officers, and thus democracy degenerates into bureaucracy.
The Presidential system suffers from no such disadvantages. The ministers have the necessary expertise, and so are not dominated by the civil servants. They know their business, and can see to it that their policies and programmes are faithfully carried out.
(3) As the ministers are chosen from party men in the Parliamentary form, the party is deprived of capable persons needed to keep the organisation united, homogenous, strong and viable. As a result of this drain of talent from the party to government, the party organisation grows weak, and indiscipline and infighting, are the result. The Presidential system is largely free from this drawbacks, as well as from rivalry and friction between the party bosses and the ministerial wing. The party and the government thus work in harmony.
(4) The politics of defection is the worst fault of the Parliamentary form. Legislators and M.P’s freely cross the floor. Defections become the order of the day. This result in corruption, nepotism, casteism, regionalism, and often short lived coalition government are formed. Defection leads to multiplication of political parties, political instability comes in the way of constructive work. The evil is unheard of in the other system.
(5) The legislators and M.P’s are not free to vote according to their conscience in the Parliamentary system. They must obey the party-whip or face expulsion. The Presidential system is superior in this respect also.
On the basic of all these factors it may be concluded that the Presidential system is desirable, for it has the following merits, (1) A strong and stable Government (2) An able and mature ministry thought direct induction of top professionals and technocrats (3) Legislator’s freedom from the fear or ‘party whip’ resulting from the separation of the Executive from the Legislature (4) Gradual emergency of the two party-system as a result of pre-election coalition of like-minded parties, before the very eyes of the electorate (5) Bureaucracy in under the mature surveillance of political leadership, and (6) Rampant defections and uneasy post-election coalitions tend to disappear.
Such are, no doubt, the advantages of the Presidential system. It certainly means greater stability and sanity in the politics of a country. However, it suffers from at least one serious drawback. By making the President and his colleagues independent of the Legislature, it makes the makes the executive too powerful and this carries within it seeds of Dictatorship. This is the worst aspect of the Presidential system. The President is elected for a fixed term, say of five years, and he cannot be removed from office even if he loses the confidence of the legislature. This danger, this inherent drawback, will have to be overcome in some way or the other, before it can be acceptable to a county like India, whose genius is essentials democratic.
To remedy the present ill, the present system of Parliamentary executive may suitably by modified within the frame-work of the ‘basic structure’ of our constitution and in the light of he experience of its working acquired during the last 50 years. Any drastic changes may simple mean falling from the frying pan into the fire. In this connection one is also reminded of the English poet Goldsmith’s woods : “For forms of Government let fools contend, Whatever is best administrated is best.” It is good administration which counts and not the form of government. Any form of government will do, if the people who run it are capable, efficient, hard working, sincere and honest. Many of the evils that beset Indian politics today will disappear, if there are right type of people at the helm of affairs.