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Creating India’s New Republic
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
Big idea for 2014
A senior government official urgently sought me for a meeting. A trifle mystified I met and discussed with him for an hour. He took it on himself to speak for the government. He conveyed the government’s displeasure over my persistent criticism of President Pranab Mukherjee for not asserting himself to enforce the constitution when it is frequently violated across the nation.
On July 25, 2012 the President in his ‘Assumption of Office’ speech had assured the nation that his focus would be to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. My frequent criticism against him was that as the only official in India’s democratic system under oath to do so he had failed to assert himself to enforce it on several occasions. At the end of our hour long discussion the senior official differed on some things and concurred on others.
That does not mean that the effort to change the system should be abandoned. President Mukherjee may be content with the status quo. The rest of us are not. There is widespread public recognition that the present system of governance has failed. The situation is ripe for a meaningful initiative. A short while earlier it had been pointed out in these columns that there was absence of any Big Idea to exploit the current situation in which a dangerous political vacuum exists. To further expand on that idea, let it be understood that in the prevailing critical context an idea would not be big if it merely helped change the government. To be big the idea must change the system. After all there is qualitatively nothing to differentiate the government from the opposition except that one is in office and the other is not.
That is why India’s first Republic is virtually dead. That is why the time has come to create a New Republic. The widespread public disenchantment with the prevailing state of affairs renders radical change feasible provided it relates to a credible agenda.
What might that be, and how might it be introduced?
The next general election in 2014 offers the opportunity. Obviously in order to introduce systemic change a mandate from the public would be required before parliament and government can introduce it. This can be accomplished if a political party or a group of parties espouse the Big Idea of ushering in a New Republic by propagating a credible agenda to realize it after assuming power. There is prime need therefore to launch a nationwide movement to introduce systemic reform and usher in India’s New Republic. Fortunately this can be done easily because to create the New Republic we would need to change the system without changing the Constitution. We would need only to amend the Constitution. Ironically, we would not need to introduce new amendments but to scrap many old amendments. If the original un-amended Constitution of 1950 is followed in letter and in spirit our political system would become Presidential.
It is a common fallacy among Indian jurists that in order to wrongly support the Westminster system that runs counter to our written Constitution, they frequently quote what any legal luminary might have spoken in the Constituent Assembly debates. No statement by any luminary is relevant or required provided the written text of the Constitution is clear and explicit. Outside opinions are only required if the written text leads to any ambiguity. However, it would not be out of place to quote the late BR Ambedkar who is recognized as the biggest contributor to the framing of the Constitution. On November 4, 1948 Ambedkar said in the Constituent Assembly:
Again, on September 2, 1953 while discussing the role of Governors, Ambedkar said in parliament:
In the light of these two statements is there any doubt that Ambedkar envisioned an executive President accountable to parliament on a daily basis? Surely Ambedkar could not have considered the powers of the President any less than those of a Governor who is appointed by the President?
Both these goals are feasible. Both these goals are necessary if India and its immediate neighbours want to secure their future.
The present system has failed. India’s first Republic is dying. It is not a utopian dream to reclaim our identity and cultural nationalism by establishing a South Asian Union, or to reclaim the integrity of our democratic system by correctly interpreting and implementing our Constitution. It is a dire necessity. The survival of India’s unity and democratic system depend on it.
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Comments on this Article
09/03/2013 02:09 AM
Dinesh Kumar Bohre
08/31/2013 05:37 AM
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