"Soniaji knows what I was doing in Jharkhand," says Priyaranjan Das Munshi. He monitored the Jharkhand operation. Was he deflecting an attack in the Congress party's blame game? Not just the government, the entire system is in crisis. The Supreme Court criticised the government for its continuous assault on the Constitution. The Speaker objected to the SC's ruling. The opposition called the government dictatorial. The Governor complained of not being heard.
Shibu Soren's removal as CM may stave off this crisis. But crises will recur until systemic flaws are erased. The Sarkaria Commission's recommendations regarding governors were naive. If the law relies on human quality, it is a bad law. The system must contain checks and balances to neutralise damage caused by human failing.
The Westminster model rests on the party system. Growth of stable national parties has eluded India. The situation won't change in the foreseeable future. India's multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-religious population deserves a presidential government system for coherence. The Constitution debars a new constituent assembly. Unless democratic rule is interrupted, we must reform the system by amending and reinterpreting the Constitution. This can be accomplished without altering its basic structure. The following steps seem necessary.
We need to discard conventions inspired by the Westminster model. We need to retrieve all pre-amendment injunctions of our written Constitution. We need to reinterpret them in the light of our own experience. Reappraising all constitutional amendments, we need to retain only those deemed suitable.
The President of India is the chief executive. He does not preside over the cabinet but monitors it through regular briefings by the PM. When he wants to, he can address Parliament to influence MPs. He can direct the cabinet to address any subject. He can sack any minister. He appoints governors. They report to him about their states' developments. They work on his directions.
The Constitution can be amended to give the President, Parliament and state assemblies fixed terms. If a PM or CM loses majority, the House could elect another leader. The President, MPs and MLAs would have simultaneous polls. The presidential candidate would campaign for candidates to Parliament and assemblies who support him. Thereby the President would enjoy a popular mandate. These changes would not alter the Constitution's basic structure. But they would give India its own presidential democracy, closer to France than to the US. India faces a drastic situation. It needs a drastic remedy.
(Puri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)