The Indian Parliament, A Promise Spurned


11:09 AM

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The Indian Parliament, A Promise Spurned Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The events that unfolded in the Indian Parliament in December 2023, marked by a grave security breach and demand of debate on this led to suspension of 150 opposition MPs.
  • These events provide a unique opportunity to assess the state of this foundational institution in the world's most populous country.
  • Amidst these developments, it becomes imperative to delve into the historical context of India's parliamentary system, the debates surrounding its adoption, and the contemporary challenges it faces, particularly considering the recent security incident.

The Historical Context of India’s Parliamentary System

  • It is crucial to understand the roots and evolution of political structure of India’s Parliamentary System.
  • After gaining independence, India faced the difficult task of drafting a constitution that would define the nation's governance model.
  • The debates within the Constituent Assembly reflected a diverse range of opinions, ultimately leading to the adoption of the parliamentary form of government.
  • During the constitutional deliberations, there were four primary stances that dominated the discourse: the presidential system, Indian orthodoxy, Swarajist model, and the parliamentary system.

Deliberations within the Constituent Assembly on India’s Governance Model

  • Debate on Presidential Model
    • Advocates of the presidential system emphasised stability, national unity, and centralisation, drawing inspiration from the American model.
    • Some proponents of this system were also inclined towards religious and social majoritarianism.
  • Debate on Indian Orthodoxy: The Indian orthodoxy proponents aimed to establish a regime based on traditional Indian institutional wisdom, rooted in the anti-colonial movement's core beliefs.
  • Debate on the Swarajist Model
    • The Swarajist model was largely influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy and envisioned a decentralised system.
    • In this model village panchayats were to have significant powers and autonomy, with higher levels possessing authority beyond the local units.
  • Debate on Parliamentary System
    • Proponents of this model argued for a decisive authority that could claim to be the voice of the citizen community, with the executive being collectively responsive to this representative authority.
    • The arguments supporting the parliamentary system in India extended beyond the conventional defence of parliamentary representative democracies seen in other parts of the world.
    • Two additional considerations were highlighted: the parliamentary system provided a better space for minority representation, allowing them to assert their interests more effectively compared to the presidential system.
    • Additionally, it acknowledged that what was considered good for the citizen community should be determined through debate and discussion in the representative body, rather than pre-assumed by other competing models.
  • Moreover, advocates of the parliamentary system asserted that it offered a more inclusive space, accommodating India's doctrinal, ethnic, and cultural pluralisms.
  • Recognising that some elements might combine over time while others remained distinct, the parliamentary model was viewed as an authentic representative of the diverse spirit of India.

Pangs of Creating an Opposition: The Dual Nature of Parliamentary System

  • Represents the Paradox of Parliamentary Governance
    • The paradoxical nature of the parliamentary system highlights the tension between a ruling majority's electoral mandate and the constant need for critical validation from opposition to ensure alignment with the common good.
    • The intricate balance between stable governance and the indispensable role of an effective opposition is ideal for the inherent challenges within the parliamentary model.
  • Necessary for Balancing Stability and Accountability
    • The term pangs encapsulate the challenges and inherent tensions associated with fostering a robust opposition within the parliamentary framework.
    • In the early days of independent India, the absence of obvious references to political parties in the constitution did not diminish the significance of a competitive party system in ensuring the efficacy of the parliamentary system.
    • The stability of the ruling party is dependent on its ability to address the concerns and critiques raised by a vigilant opposition.
    • The ruling party, both at the central and state levels, often faces difficulties in dealing with a sustained and vocal opposition.
    • While attempts to limit the space of the opposition may be employed, the very logic of the system compels the ruling party to coexist with an effective opposition, as it forms an integral part of the democratic checks and balances.
  • Nehru's Sensitivity and the Evolution of Opposition
    • Jawaharlal Nehru's sensitivity to the absence of an effective opposition in the First Lok Sabha underscores the nuanced nature of this paradox.
    • While the presence of a strong opposition was acknowledged as vital for the democratic process, the discomfort it brought to the ruling party highlighted the inherent tension between governance and scrutiny.
    • Nehru's discomfort reflected the challenge of reconciling the need for stability with the imperative of keeping the government accountable and aligned with the common good.
    • As the opposition found its voice within the parliamentary setting, radical voices initially advocating disruption from within were largely absorbed into the democratic process.
    • This evolution emphasises the adaptability of the parliamentary system to accommodate dissenting views and highlights the crucial role played by an effective opposition in shaping legislation, policies, and governance.

The Security Breach and Present State of India’s Parliamentary Affairs

  • Opposition’s Reasonable Demand for Accountability
    • The security breach symbolises a threat to the very core of India's democratic structure, necessitating a comprehensive evaluation of the incident's broader impact on the functioning of the Parliament.
    • Opposition’s demand reflects a legitimate concern for the security and stability of the parliamentary system.
    • By pushing for transparency and accountability, the Opposition endeavours to restore public trust and confidence in the nation's democratic processes.
  • Less Satisfactory Response by the Leadership of Houses and Government
    • Instead of acknowledging the gravity of the situation and collaborating with the Opposition to address the lapses, there appears to be a tendency to treat the demands as an affront to the functioning of the Parliament.
    • This stance, while defending the parliamentary dignity, may inadvertently hinder the collaborative efforts necessary for ensuring the security and resilience of the legislative institution.
    • The presiding officers could have taken the Opposition into confidence to form a committee on security.
    • Moreover, the leadership of the Houses appeared to be submitting to the executive at the expense of their dignity.

Way Forward

  • The present situation prompts a broader question about the commitment to upholding parliamentary values in the face of adversity.
  • Rather than viewing the Opposition's demands as challenges to the parliamentary order, there is an opportunity for the leadership to work together in the interest of the nation.
  • Upholding parliamentary values demands a balance between defending the dignity of the institution and acknowledging the imperative for collective efforts to ensure the continued functionality and security of the Parliament.


  • The recent events in the Indian Parliament highlight not only the immediate security concerns but also the broader challenges facing the parliamentary system.
  • The need for a robust opposition, responsible leadership, and adherence to parliamentary principles are critical for the effective functioning of India's foundational institution.
  • Addressing these issues is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the parliamentary government and ensuring its continued relevance in the diverse and dynamic landscape of Indian democracy.

Q1) What is the structure of India's Parliamentary System?

India's Parliamentary System is a federal system of government, consisting of a President as the ceremonial head and a Prime Minister as the head of the government. It follows the Westminster model, with a bicameral legislature comprising the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). Members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected by the people, while members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by the elected members of the State Legislative Assemblies.

Q2) How does the Prime Minister get elected in India's Parliamentary System?

In India's Parliamentary System, the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the Lok Sabha. After general elections, the President invites the leader of the majority party to form the government and become the Prime Minister. If no single party has a clear majority, a coalition government is formed. The Prime Minister is responsible for the day-to-day administration and decision-making, while the President's role is largely ceremonial. The Prime Minister can be removed if they lose a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha.

Source: The Hindu