June 22, 2021
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But What About The PM?

But What About The PM?


In the context of the Lokpal debate, much has been said about the elected government versus the "non-elected" "Civil Society" and how bodies like the NAC and even the Planning Commission in some ways could be used as analogous to the Lokpal Drafting Committee.

Writing in the First Post, Vivek H Dehejia notes:

There are two important differences, however, which make an American-style CEA [Council of Economic Advisors] more legitimate than an Indian-style NAC. First, members of the CEA, while nominated by the President, must be confirmed by the US Senate, similar to other high-ranking government appointments such as members of the Cabinet. They cannot simply be handpicked by the government and appointed without consultation, as are members of our NAC.

Second, and equally important, the CEA’s role is purely to advise the President, who then proposes legislation to the Congress taking the CEA’s advice as one input. Crucially, they are not involved in lobbying on matters of legislation, nor are they involved in drafting legislation. NAC is involved in both of these.

And then he cuts to the chase, making the obvious point that many have shied away from underlining:

In India, members of the Rajya Sabha are elected, albeit indirectly, and therefore constitutional jurisprudence may hold that there is no bar in a PM coming from the upper chamber. Politically, the argument is not so clear-cut. In practice, being elected to the Rajya Sabha really boils down to being put forward for election in a state in which your party holds a majority, and you are almost certain to win by default.

That is why, although not written in our Constitution, we too shared an unwritten convention that the PM should sit in the Lok Sabha, who thereby gains legitimacy by being directly elected by voters in a particular constituency. We may have had such a convention before the advent of the UPA government, but that has clearly gone out of the window. Perhaps that is something else those critical of the role of civil society in our current political configuration may wish to give heed to.

Read the full piece here

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