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?