There are many parallels between Indian PM Modi and US President Trump. However, the focus of this article is only on why is Modi able to push through his agenda by passing new laws while Trump is unable to get through his way in the law making process.
In US, Trump’s first proposed reform i.e. Healthcare bill to repeal Obamacare can’t be passed despite the Republicans having absolute majority in the Legislature. This was possible because Congress (equivalent to Lok Sabha) stalled it and the opposition came from the ruling Republican party members. At the same time, Modi is able to pass almost 14 laws, including some controversial laws, simultaneously with the annual Budget. Modi Govt has been able to pass almost every Law (except Land Amendment Act) in the last 3 years of his power.
In the US system which is a Presidential system, there is a complete box like separation of Power between the Executive and the Legislature. This makes the Executive accountable to Legislature, however the survival of the Government is not dependent on the support of Legislature.
In the Indian system, which is the Parliamentary system, separation of power between the Executive and the Legislature is incomplete, and it is overlapping. Under the standard Parliamentary system (not currently in India), the Government remains accountable to Legislature and the survival of the Government depends on support from the Legislature. Even in case of absolute majority of any party, the separation of power remains intact because a legislator remains independent of the Party inside the Parliament.
Under the original Constitution of India, the framers including Babasaheb never wanted complete separation because it leads to a stalemate situation where things gets stalled between Executive and Legislature. Further, the intent was to make the Executive accountable to the Legislature on a daily basis.
However, the original plan of Indian Constitution failed completely with the Anti-Defection law or Dal Badal Kanoon passed in 1985 by the Rajiv Gandhi government. This law merges the executive and legislative power in case of majority and accountability of executive towards legislature becomes NIL on a daily basis, because survival of the Government (represented by Party MPs) depends totally on the Political Party.
Article 105 of Indian Constitution clearly says that Members of Parliament have right to free speech and freedom to vote in parliament and they are not answerable to any Court for their vote or speech in the Parliament. Contrary to Article 105, the Anti-Defection law curtailed the freedom of MPs to vote and made them answerable to the Party chief. In case of dissent by the MP, the MP has to lose his/her seat in the House of Parliament.
Many political and legal analysts have raised the issue that Modi Govt is able to pass many bills as Money Bills, which don’t require Rajya Sabha approval. However, this is incomplete understanding of the underlying problem. The author’s understanding is that Money Bill is not a problem, but the issue is how a bill becomes a Money Bill and does the person approving a Bill as Money Bill have necessary authority. A Bill is authorised as Money Bill after the approval from the Speaker. However, if the speaker himself has been elected by using the brute force of the Party whip under Anti-Defection Law, then the Authority of the Speaker is itself questionable. The power of the Speaker is merged along with the Executive and the Legislature to the Political Party with the Anti-Defection Law.
There are only two means of avoiding autocracy i.e. ensuring liberty of people and making government accountable. Parliamentary or Presidential system of Governance is a matter of choice for any country. However, both the systems demand liberty for citizens and accountability of the Government. Any democracy is made successful with freedom of thought and expression in form of speech, writing and voting while protecting the fundamental rights and with the accountability of the Government.
How can an elected MP/MLA (who represents a population) have NO FREEDOM TO VOTE as per his/her conscience? How can a Parliament represent and create a liberal democracy which prohibits freedom of vote to its own members. Only a few failed states like Pakistan, Bangladesh, a few African countries have this kind of law that prohibits freedom of expression to elected MP and MLA in the name of Party or any extra-constitutional authority.
So, when elected member of parliament don’t have freedom to vote in Parliament (only directly democratic elected institution with complete political equality), then a democratic nation is not possible.
S Kumar is a technocrat with education from a top engineering institution.
Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.