CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be from Lok Sabha?

Unmindful of the fact that India is (still) a parliamentary democracy, the BJP continues on its relentless quest to turn each election into a US-style presidential race.

It wanted the Congress-led UPA to declare its prime ministerial nominee before the elections. While the primal attractions of this are undeniable, in a parliamentary democracy, the people elect their representative. The elected MPs of the ruling party (and of the ruling alliance) then decide who should become PM. What if a nominee loses, or in a gerontocracy like ours, if the nominee dies, both possibilities which are well within the realm of a democracy?

But now that Sonia Gandhi has clearly declared Manmohan Singh as the Congress’ (and therefore the UPA’s?) candidate, the BJP wants a US-style presidential “live” television debate between the NDA’s nominee, L.K. Advani, and the UPA’s. Again, in an unpredictable coalition melieu like India’s, where the “national” parties are shrinking, a debate like this shuts out the smaller players. If the Third Front is in the running, shouldn’t the “national” parties also want to debate with, say, Prakash Karat or Jayalalitha?

Unconcerned with these nuances, the BJP has now trained its guns on Manmohan Singh’s electoral status. It says the Prime Minister should be a member of the house of the people, the Lok Sabha, and not a member of the Rajya Sabha, like Singh is. Advani claims the Constitution makes membership of the Lower House a key criterion for becoming the head of the Government.

Does it? Should the PM be from the Lok Sabha? Is there any bar on an elder becoming PM? Since Rajya Sabha members are elected by people’s representatives in the Lok Sabhas and Vidhana Sabhas, are they still representatives of the people in some way? On the other hand, if a RS member cannot aspire for the high office, why have the RS at all? Then again, in the kind of democracy we have become, do “good people” like Singh have a chance to win, although most people agree he is kind of people we need in politics?

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28 Responses to “CHURUMURI POLL: Should PM be from Lok Sabha?”

  1. Mysore Peshva Says:

    L.K. Advani’s offer to debate Manmohan Singh live is the best thing I have read in Indian politics in a long time.

    Kudos to Mr. Advani. I hope Mr. Singh accepts immediately! (– or does he need Sonia Gandhi’s invitation to accept a debate invitation?)

    Both the PM candidates are elderly, but it’s about time we pinned them on the issues — and hear of how exactly they plan to resolve them both as single-largest parties and as members of a coalition.

    Which issues do I want them to debate? Unemployment, primary education, national integration (particularly of minorities), debt situations of states, election sops (such as the TDP’s abominable direct cash scheme), national security (particularly considering the Taliban’s conquests in neighboring Pakistan), environmental/wildlife conservation, and sustainable energy.

    Their debate will be a good way to bring important those issues into the conversation. So far all I read is about alliances, caste equations, ad hominem attacks by candidates, etc.

  2. Alok Says:

    This is just an extension of the BJP’s single point agenda for the whole election: Make Advani PM.

    Not worth debating really.

  3. narasimha Says:

    MMS lied and submitted a false affidavit, that he is a resident of Assam to get into the Rajyasabha. This was facilitated by Hiteshwar Saikia the CM of Assam.

    With this background he is unfit to be a prime minister.

    The rest is churmuri’s spin to help the congress win these elections by hook or crook :) Maybe it is Ugadi special from Churmuri

  4. Palahalli Says:

    Why should you adopt an anti-BJP stance to debate an academic question?

    So, here’s the way I see it.

    a. In a Parliamentary Democracy, MPs of the winning Party or Combination get together and elect their Leader of the House. This Leader constitutes his Cabinet. This Leader then becomes Prime Minister ie the First Amongst Equals. This is the “Letter” of the procedure.

    Now, let’s talk about the “Spirit” of the same procedure.

    1. Any Member of the winning Party/Combination, may claim the position of Leader.

    2. Members of the Party/Combination are free to elect the Leader of their choice.

    Since Churumuri has taken a decidedly anti-BJP stand, it is fair to assume that it supports the Letter and Spirit of the said procedure.

    I will leave it to commenters to be the judge of whether the Congress Party or it’s UPA, believes in the Spirit of the procedure.

    b. Let me speak about the merits of the so-called Presidential style of campaigning and debate.

    1. In this style, a Prime Ministerial candidate is made known during the campaign and the Party/ies campaign under his Leadership. It’s more open and honest.

    2. A public debate lets the people judge the stuff these Prime Ministerial candidates are made of. Their policies and plans for the Nation. More over, no one has said smaller parties cannot have their Prime Ministerial candidates. Mayawati can debate with MM Singh too.

    3. A Loka Sabha MP as PM is preferable because the fellow has been tested on the field.

    You ask what happens if the pre-announced candidate fails in the hustings?

    He doesn’t get to be an MP, leave alone the PM. He has been proved to be an unworthy candidate.

  5. vikschshkr Says:

    Where you have MPs with criminal records elected to the Lok Sabha – both within BJP and Congress led coalitions, I dont care a damn if the PM is from the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha, as long as he governs the country properly.

    If getting elected through polls is the most important thing, then do we drop cases against MPs with criminal charges, because as they never tire of saying, they have won a Lok Sabha/Assembly election and hence have been exonarated by the people’s court.

  6. maald Says:

    Imagine how this guy would have reacted had the same offer come from Congress.

    When the US election ended on Nov 4, everyone knew it truly ended. In Indian system, that would have been the beginning. The control would have shifted to Amar Singhs, Karunanidhis and Deve Gowdas.

  7. Vinay Says:

    All said and done, a debate would be welcome. And it should be limited to Advani and Manmohan only, otherwise it will degenerate into a cacaphonic war of words, as is the usual case with TV ‘debates’. And finally, no matter what happens, Sagarika Ghose should NOT be the moderator!!!

  8. kharaharapriya Says:

    Its high time the political parties stop appointing lawyers to attend television debates. Lets also get to see what the leaders have to say. Let MMS accept the challenge.

    The Indian method was debating be it Adi Shankara, Madhva, Basavanna. Its no shame if we go back and start debating again.

  9. ponnaps Says:

    how does BJP hope to swing the elections in its favor by calling for a televised debate??..most interested people will watch but wont vote(but blog abt it they will)…the actual voters will be more interested in other things on TV than on these debates if at all they have a TV..
    what the press will report is their perspective of the debate unless its the transcript..looks like BJP hasnt learnt from the debacle of its India shining media blitz
    MPs are elected bsaed on local considerations tho’ its not what we like to believe..PMs are more by accident than plan(DG MMS Maya(?))…
    BJP needs more of varun and modis to stir up the masses…the voting masses…tehre is a huge constituency that vote congress bcos “my father,grandfather also voted congress”…BJP needs to target them…and they are not watching TV..
    it will be interesting to see if the urban “thinking” Indian will actually turn up and vote…thus changing the rules of the game…electronic media will be a potent weapon only then(and we can draw comparisons with US)…

  10. Kaushik Says:

    The US style presidential debate helps the electorate know what the candidates stand for…
    Given that the BJP and the Congress are going to be among the largest parties and will play a major role in the next government, the debate is not a bad idea for us to know where each party stands vis-a-vis the national issues.

    That MMS and the congress do not want it is because they know that they cannot win the election based on their stance on national issues, because they do not have one. Instead the congress wants to focus of dividing the country to garner votes

  11. Abhijit Says:

    Who cares as long as they do not ride on the backs of helpless common people.

  12. m340 Says:

    I will take up the second issue first. As a voter is it too much to ask who is the person who might lead the country after the elections? If the said nominee happens to lose the election, fair enough, the people think that he is not capable of leading the country. After all, it is the voice of the people that the elected person represents
    If you are going to hide behind the technicality that this person need not be announced since we have a parliamentary democracy then isn’t it time that we did something to change the constitution? The people who framed the constitution understood that things can change and left us an option to change via constitutional process.
    The question of becoming the PM through RS instead of LS is more of a moral one than legal. In this day of horse trading, I would trust someone from LS more than RS, not that this is foolproof to ensure a good leader, but simply because he is democratically elected through a fair process.
    On the issue of presidential debate, I don’t think BJP is going to have an automatic upper hand here although they are proposinging the debate.
    But the debate is definitely is a step for better than worse. So, why the opposition?

  13. tarlesubba Says:

    sorry churumuri, but mahan dabba logic only you have given that too as nuances.

  14. Faldo Says:

    As pointed out by few others, having a PM who is from the Lok Sabha has more to do with the spirit of the constitution.
    If the PM is from the Lok Sabha, there is a sense that the most powerful government official in the country has been directly elected by the people on behalf of whom he or she makes the decisions.
    If the PM is from the Rajya Sabha, as this election is indirect, the voters do not get to elect the person who would be ruling them.
    It does not suffice to say that Rajya Sabha members are elected by members of the lower house and by state assemblies. A person who is the choice of the elected representatives might not necessarily be liked by the common people.

  15. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    Now it isn’t hard for Manmohan Singh to win elections.

    The congress has implanted its men in all sorts of posts in all organs of State, so that even if they lose, their people will rule on their behalf.

    Remember in NDA rule, had they any control over Planning Commission or any other organ of the govt.

  16. NS Rao Says:

    I think, a debate between the projected PM candidates will spur the so-called elite and middle class folks who generally do not bother to vote, but crib about everything we have in our country to come out and vote based on the issues. Alas, we are not seeing only 2 PM candidates given that we have III front leaders each one trying to outdo the other!

    We can only imagine Mayawati in a debate with Manmohan Singh!! or for that matter, Mulayam Singh in a debate with Advani or if you have Jayalalitha in a debate with ThiruKa on Live TV

    On a serious note. I really feel that a debate on the national issues between 2 major parties is a must for the PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THE PULSE OF THE PARTIES……. By having this kind of debates, even a common man (aam-aadmi) can understand what the real issues are and vote appropriately.

    Directly or indirectly, these kind of debates set up a moral obligation on the party that comes to power to fulfill the points they were voted for, since they argue on relevant and realistic points. If the party doesn’t fulfill the obligations promised they will be booted out again. That way, there is some accountability in Politics as well.

  17. Hiker Says:

    ಅದೇನೋ ಹೇಳ್ತಾರಲ್ಲ, ಕಾಮಾಲೆ ಕಣ್ಣಿನವರಿಗೆ ಕಾಣೋದೆಲ್ಲ ಹಳದಿ !

  18. Shravan Says:

    The BJP has been following the US Politics all the time. There is nothing wrong in following some model but the problem is that it does so blindly. It is also sad to see that a major national party undermines our own constitutional provisions. It shows the disconnect that there exists between the BJP and the rest of the nation.

  19. Palahalli Says:

    “It is also sad to see that a major national party undermines our own constitutional provisions.”

    – How?

  20. Shravan Says:

    -Palahalli,

    The constitutional provision is that the PM can be from either house. The BJP clearly does not accept that and hence undermines the constitutional provisions.

  21. Palahalli Says:

    Shravan – The BJP has done the right thing by asking for an amendment to allow only Loka Sabha MPs as PMs.

    It has NOT asked that a RS MP as PM, be either disqualified or disbarred, pending such amendment.

    There is no question of the BJP undermining the current Constitutional provision allowing for both RS and LS MPs as potential PMs. The party has simply asked for a debate.

  22. Gururaj B.N. Says:

    How does the person from one or the other House make a better PM. We have seen Dr.Manmohan “timid” Singh, mumbling away as His Mistresse’s Voice for five years. We have also had PMs from LS like Charan Singh and Chandrashekar who did not face the voting floor even once. The difference is that between tweedledum and tweedldee!

  23. Palahalli Says:

    Gururaj – I disagree. The Loka Sabha MP is a far truer mirror to our society’s health since he is directly elected.

    Also, consider this. The Rajya Sabha MP is a representative of his State and not any particular Constituency. Therefore, by elevating an RS MP to PMhood, we are depriving that particular State from having its say or in any event ensuring less of a say for it in Parliament.

    In the case of MM Singh, Assam lost out. That’s bad.

  24. Gururaj B.N. Says:

    Dear Palahalli,

    You have not commented on the two LS premiers whose examples I have cited to show that the origin of the premier makes little difference. There in lies the catch. I think, it is the quality of the person which matters rather than his parent House.

    It is true enough that RS MP represents his State and LS MP represents the common citizens. That is a constitutional nicety. But, in real-politik does it make any difference.

  25. Palahalli Says:

    Gururaj – I can agree with a lot more, if we are discussing real politick :)

    I also agree that there is no guarantee vis a vis Quality of the Loka Sabha PM. But, the fellow would have passed the true test nevertheless.

    Please consider the ignominious fact that an RS MP as PM cannot get elected from a Loka Sabha constituency.

  26. B.N.Gururaj Says:

    Dear Palahalli,

    An RS candidate gets elected through cliques and party support. Not by reaching out to public and understanding the public’s mind. He can afford a “devil may care” attitude. To this extent, an LS member has better exposure to public and public life besides merely holding conferences in choice locations. Perhaps, LS members are in a better position to learn on the job, especially while on the campaign trail and soon after victory.

    A PM, even within his party cannot expect unquestioned support. Even Nehru and Indira Gandhi had their detractors within the Party. Therefore, he certainly requires the most important quality of carrying the supporters with him. In the case of Manmohan Singh, the survival was mainly due to the backing of of Sonia “Sphinx” Gandhi and of course on the goodwill he might have earned in the past. This seems to be one of the reasons for his lackluster performance.

    It seems that I am after all tending to agree that a PM from LS is better than a PM from RS! You have been highly persuasive.

  27. Shravan Says:

    The BJP has just released its manifesto.
    Does it talk about any amendment to the constitution to ensure that the PM is from the Lok Sabha? I don’t think so. I did not read it completely, no media reports suggest any plans to make such a change.
    So that’s it.. .they are not serious about it… and just wanted something to talk about… to kill the time.

  28. krsnakhandelwal Says:

    I think that time has come when the PM should be elected by a direct vote. The voters should be required to vote for the MP and vote for a candidate of the same party as the MP for the post of PM. The independent candidates may be required to be align themselves with a party beforehand which may be nearest to his ideology. This way the requirement of PM seeking election after becoming PM , will not be there. The voters would have chance to select PM and the PM so elected will not be at the mercy of the party bosses. It will a single excercise. Also when the party level democracy will become important which is not given a chance and machinations by the influential leaders will stop.

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