India Insight

Should the Prime Minister be a member of the Lok Sabha?

May 7, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not contesting elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower and popular house of parliament.This is for reasons of health and also because the constitution permits the prime minister to be a member of either of the two houses of parliament.Like Singh, we have had prime ministers from the Rajya Sabha earlier but they sought to get elected to the lower house and succeeded easily.As the de facto head of the government, the prime minister is expected to earn people’s approval directly.Mayawati recently took a dig at Singh over the issue.”This Manmohan Singh has not contested any public election…he was brought back door in Rajya Sabha and made prime minister,” the Bahujan Samaj Party chief said at an election rally.”If Manmohan can become PM, why can’t an educated Dalit woman.”This is possibly the first instance in Indian politics where the sitting prime minister has decided to stay away from the race.But should India’s prime minister be a member of the Lok Sabha?The opposition, after initially trying to make it a poll issue, now seems to have lost the plot.The question keeps popping up on internet discussion boards.FOR– Those who support the idea of a prime minister from the lower house say that a popular vote marks acceptability by the people as compared to someone nominated to the Rajya Sabha.– Such a person having earned the people’s mandate is seen as less susceptible to manipulation.– A person’s performance as an MP is seen as a necessary test of his competence and claim to the top job.– Some even suggest that a prime ministerial candidate should seek election with a pre-announced team, something like the shadow cabinet system in Britain.AGAINST– The most convincing argument against the idea is that the constitution puts no such caveat.– The upper house is seen as a talent pool where competent candidates are sent after consideration. This compensates for impulsive behavior of voters which can sometimes make “good” candidates unelectable. For example, Manmohan Singh lost the 1999 Lok Sabha election from the posh South Delhi constituency.– It is also felt that any prime minister would work according to the party’s ideology, membership of a house being irrelevant to his policies and performance.– Moreover, the prime minister is in any case indirectly elected (by the party MPs), so the argument of his having greater acceptance may not cut much ice.– Some feel that if the person is a representative of the majority party and competent then nothing else should count. Others say the proposal calls into question the very rationale of having an upper house, and therefore, needs to be fleshed out.One comment on the online forum points to the question being a moral rather than a legal one.There are two facts to bear in mind.In the Westminster system of democracy, a prime minister from the upper house would be an anachronism.Secondly, the constitution review commission recognised the lower house’s pre-eminence in its recommendation that the prime minister be directly elected by the house in the event of a hung poll verdict.As for the practical aspect, the Congress is contesting around 400 seats in these elections, and finding a safe seat for a politician like Manmohan Singh, the sitting prime minister, should have been easy.In March, opposition leader L.K. Advani raised the issue at an election rally.”Singh will be more acceptable to the people of India if he decides to fight the elections and go to the Lok Sabha,” he said.Did Advani have a valid point?

Comments
34 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

IT IS AN ACID TEST TO ANY CIVILIAN WHO WANT TO SIT ON THE APEX SEAT. THOSE WHO WINS THE HEART OF THE PEOPLE CAN LISTEN TO THEIR PULSE BEAT AND CAN DO BETTER FOR THEIR BEST.THE CONSTITUTION HAS MADE AN ARRANGEMENT TO BECOME A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT WITHIN A STIPULATED PERIOD. HOWEVER IF HE CONTEST IN DIRECT ELECTIONS, THE CANDIDATE WILL BE VISITING NOOK AND CORNER OF THE CONSTITUTION TO WHICH HE IS CONTESTING. THAT GIVES HIM AN OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW MUCH BETTER ABOUT THE PEOPLE, BOTHERINGS, REQUIREMENTS, FULFILLMENT OF BASIC REQUIREMENTS ETC. I PRESUME THAT THEN ONLY HE CAN LIVE UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE PEOPLE AND BETTER TO SAY TO SATISFY HIM SELF?0

Posted by G. Hanumantha Rao | Report as abusive
 

The prime minister should be a leader of the masses, not some one who is selected by an individual. Dr. Manmohan Singh does not have a mass appeal, and hence unfit to lead the nation. He is undoubtedly honest, but is timid. It is his timdity and lack of uprightness that he has been chosen by Sonia Gandhi, who is afraid of a strong character in the lead who will rob the leadership of her. Dr. Singh’s ex-colleague, Natwar Singh, was correct in that Dr. Singh is incapable of winning a municipal election, let alone a Loksabha seat.The country has countless individuals in the Congress party and in the opposition who have the necessary qualities of honesty, integrity and mass appeal. India’s PM should be one among them.

Posted by Madan Mehta | Report as abusive
 

Its indeed pointless for a PM candidate to win from Lok Sabha elections, since Lok Sabha represents local electorates, and the elected member is supposed to take care of its share of citizens. Rajya Sabha is evidently a talent pool and hence, the best can only make it there, and even less to the prime position. It is more crappy that a prime ministerial candidate gets elected from a regional constituency which is biased to a particular party ! I guess the public should have some mechanism on deciding whom to take the PM position.

 

India is indeed very lucky to have a person of Dr. MM Singh’s calibre being the Prime Minister. It is no only his dedication, integrity, and competence which benefits mother India, but also he has brought India name and fame at the international level. He has obviously become the new face of India, with his pointed light blue turban. The world leaders listen to him more intently for his competent advice, and trust his honest opinion better than any other leader at G20 meetings. If there was not a provision in the Indian Constitution for persons of Dr. Singh’s calibre to assume the Prime Minister’s duties to serve India, the country would have been deprived of his contributions to India, and the world community. The Upper House (Raj Sabha of Indian Parliamentary democracy like UK’s House of Lords, was created to bring the unblemished, honest, and competent sons of the land who otherwise would shy away from dirty politics, which is known as the last resort for the scoundrels. It is not only his domestic economic policies first as the Finance Minister in 1990s, and now as the Prime Minster that India has benefitted from, but also his sobre, and cool headed statesmanship brought India the Civil Nuclear Energy Deal to meet needs of a fast growing economy. This will benefit India for generations to come. After the 24/11 Mumbai terrorist episode, his patient statesmanship wond India respect from the entire world, and at the same exposed arch-enemy Pakistan for her hypocracy, terrorism, and lies. Dr. Singh is a man of very broad mental horizon, and very strong will power to serve his motherland, India.

 

The member of an upper house is a nominee of a party. He does not represent the people. If election is based on the vote received for a party and the party nominate its member to parliament there is no problem Here it is not the system. Hence to be a true representative the people PM must be an elected representative of the people.

Posted by c m subash | Report as abusive
 

In India you have MPs with criminal records elected to the Lok Sabha across various political parties.In such a scenario even if a person is from rajya sabha,one does not care as long as he provides a good governance. There is nothing to ensure that a person of integrity and honesty will be elected directly by the people because most of these candidates get elected by manipulating the loopholes of our electoral system through use of money and muscle power.

Posted by arun | Report as abusive
 

Moreover seeing polling percentage in India the whole idea of true representative of people In Lok sabha is a sham!

Posted by arun | Report as abusive
 

“Like Singh, we have had prime ministers from the Rajya Sabha earlier but they sought to get elected to the lower house and succeeded easily.” — this is a patent lie! The constitution explicitly prohibits a Rajya Sabha member from leading the Govt. S/he is required to fight for a seat in the Lok Sabha within 6 months. Or else resign from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Posted by Salauddeen | Report as abusive
 

Allowing a member of the Rajya Sabha to head the government was a sad chapter in the history of India. He had depended on his deputy in the Lok Sabha to handle important issues. For example, money bills originate only in the Lok Sabha. The reason is authorization to spend money has been vested with directly elected representatives. If Rajya Sabha cannot authorizse a money bill, then the person from that House cannot and should not spend the money authorized by the Lok Sabha. The appointment of Mr. Manmohan Singh was illegitimate and unfortunate. No one challenged it in the Supreme Court. Mr. Advani is absolutely correct when he said that only a person directly elected should become Prime Minister.

 

PM of India should be either a member of Gandhi family or someone who could be trusted by Gandhi family.There is no need for him to be member of parliament.Harsh Wardhan

Posted by Harsh Wardhan | Report as abusive
 

What you think as a conscious citizen? If a PM can not negotiate his electorate how he is going to negotiate the interests of his people in world stage??? Its also not about maintaining a status quo of current state of affairs, you need a constant endeavour to move up and any one in public life should have this skill to do that. Days of corrupt practices are going to be over soom.

Posted by anil | Report as abusive
 

What you think as a conscious citizen? If a PM can not negotiate his electorate how he is going to negotiate the interests of his people in world stage??? Its also not about maintaining a status quo of current state of affairs, you need a constant endeavour to move up and any one in public life should have this skill to do that. Days of corrupt practices are going to be over soon.

Posted by anil | Report as abusive
 

Yes, he/she must be a member of the Lok Sabha. If he/she can’t win a Lok Sabha seat then it shows that he/she is not capable of being a PM and is not approved by the people mandate.

Posted by RS | Report as abusive
 

I think Dr MM Singh shud contest the election to the Loksabha to Challenge Advani.He is sure to comeout victorious as he is the cleanest person & has done meny acievements at all levels both national &International levels.He is not going to lose in any way.BJP`s habit is to arouse the feelings of all irrespective of person.All the best to sitting PM & Long live Dr MMSingh

Posted by Anantha Iyer | Report as abusive
 

Not neceessary. He is a proved honest highly educated citizen of India .Why should he unnecessarily waste his time & money in contesting the election.The sitting MP should ( whether Rajyasabha member or Lokasabha Member or a defectin from one party to the other) be barred from seeking re election. My full support to Dr.Manmohan Singh

 

I strongly feel that PM should be elected by the people by direct vote and his term should be fixed. It will require amendment to consitution. He therefore will not be dependent on MP and will have the freedom to choose the best person in his team. Abolish nomination to the Upper house. Every state should elect four person. This will give equal representation irrespective of the size of state. To win election one must have 50%+1 vote out of total polled in the constituency. If there are more than two candidate and no body wins 50%+1 vote then this will be runoff and only two top candidate will be allowed to run second time. Our current democracy is farce. We have people who get 15% vote when there are more than 50 candidates running, and he wins. Is any body will agree that he represent that constituency? The answer is big NO. We need lots of amendement in Indian electoral system

 

no

Posted by ashok | Report as abusive
 

It is better to have a person (like Dr. Manmohan Singh) who may not be a Lok Sabha MP as our Prime Minister, rather than having a person with criminal background duly elected to the Lok Sabha. We need more clean MPs than criminals who get party tickets on the basis of ‘winnability’.

 

It is very important that the prime minister is an MP elected by the people. In a country like India, leaders need to be in touch at the grassroots level and not just chase the number game as is now happening. India no longer have a statesman, and it doesn’t appear any of its political leader has the farsightedness to rise above the petty. Manmohan Singh not being elected by people doesn’t help improve that image of Indian politicians.Advani and Mayawati are both right. It is very important that the biggest leader of a country has a constituency of his or her own!

Posted by ananth | Report as abusive
 

PM must be from Lok Sabha only. This will go along way for Democracy to be healthy

 

@Dr. Singh’s ex-colleague, Natwar Singh, was correct in that Dr. Singh is incapable of winning a municipal election, let alone a Loksabha seat.–Posted by Madan Mehta–That’s because he is honest. It is easy to give these prophetic statements by these politicians. Perhaps that’s why constitution was written that way and these politicians should read the constitution rather than talk dirt.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

Debates will always go on. Right and Wrong have no relevance in politics. But My 2 Cents, India’s Prime Minister or Chief Ministers should be directly elected by the People of the INDIA or INDIAN States. These Elected MPs or MLAs Electing their Prime Minister or Chief Ministers should be abolished.INDIA I LOVE YOU! BUT NOT THE PEOPLE WHO GOVERN YOU!

Posted by Sri | Report as abusive
 

Dear VipulThe issue raised by you is valid one. When you say that in the democracy like ours PM should be directly elected via LOK SABHA, it sounds good.Further, you raised the issue that the UPPER HOUSE is for talented ones. My point is this that how much talented ones are getting seat in this Rajya Sabha. Needless to say, it has become the safe heaven for billionaires and millionaires who want to cash more from politics.If person like Manmohan Singh enters via Rajya Sabha, nothing will harm to the democracy of India.Balendu

Posted by Balendu Priyadarshan | Report as abusive
 

having a prime minister from unelected body does not represent the very people and the democractic system in the lower hose of the country’s parliament. I think its reasonable to say that any person who is a candidate for the primeministership should go the people first to prove that he is a desirable and much loved person by people of the country whom he is going to represent, otherwise any dick and harry specially country like india can become a prime minister.you must know what i mean.

Posted by D. R. Sharma | Report as abusive
 

a perfect example of stupidity taking currency.people who follow narrow-minded,bigoted beliefs and belief systems are CRYING-OUT.the Truth is; the leader is elected within the party,so what’s the fuss?Amend the constitution…..before belly-aching, because the shrill voices of Hate is keeping us Away from any real progress.

Posted by AJ | Report as abusive
 

Hi,I am of the opinion that any minister has to be elected by the people, be it prime minister or any other cabinet minister and if the government of the day has a requirement to work with some eminent persons they can be taken on board in an appropriate category.Look at what happened when Shivraj Patil, who lost the mandate, was brought in through the back door, because of loyalty to a family and not because of people.Regards,Srikanth

Posted by Srikanth | Report as abusive
 
 

Rajya Sabha is useless waste of space and money. It must be dissolved.Political parties such as PMK (TN based party) are misusing it as a short cut to power.

Posted by Suresh | Report as abusive
 

Those who want to challenge the provisions of the constitution that the Prime Minister shall be one who commands the majority of the Parliament shall first make it a point for referendum, the only point to be decided and then conduct the referendum, win the clear majority of the country’s electorate, -not just majority of votes polled and then bring the formal Amendment to the constitution,through the prescribed procedure. Merely making irresponsible statements to illiterate crowds and then showing off that as public support has no meaning. If the politicians of today are willing, let them conduct a referendum on the necessity of the Lok Sabha.India is a Union of States. Rajya Sabha is the only rational body to exist at the Apex, and should consist of the Cabinet Ministers of the States, and one additional representative each. The State Chief Ministers should be made Cabinet Minsters at the Centre, without specific portfolios,with one Minister of State on full time Duty assigned for each portfolio at the Centre. The National Cabinet, consisting of Chief Ministers of the States should meet once every fortnight on issues of major importance and the Ministers of State shall carry on with the day to day administration.This will make sure that the Government at the Centre truly represents the Coutry as a whole and not just the majority party.The changing party comoplexions of the States shall be reflected automatically in the Rajya Sabha. The Honourable members of the Lok Sabha have given us enough thoughtto last for a century to warrant the abolition of that august House. I had painstakingly logged the working hours of that House for each session for some years.,but have destroyed them because I could not be proud of the proceedings as a citizen.I have taken th opportunity of this debate to vent my frustration as a citizen of the country ,having seen all the elections from the fifties till now.How does being directly elected by ten lakhs voters confer a superior status on a L.S.Member compared to the R.S. Member elected by the State legislatures on proportional representation basis, where the degree of representation is far higher than that of a single parliamentary seat? If this absurd logic is accepted, The Indian President and Vice President who are elected by a similar process are to be treated as invalid representatives of the people!

Posted by C.S.Radhakrishnan | Report as abusive
 

A Prime Minister of a country not allowing people to express their support may sound a question of ethics, but practically even if he were to fight it out it would only be one constituency whereas being PM he is to lead the entire country therefore how much weight-age should be given to his electoral performance is debatable.In this aspect the American Federal system is more appropriate.And competence of a person to lead a nation can hardly be judged by his performance in his constituency which he may pamper during his rule which again calls about the question of ethics.It is best to hold the Constitution Supreme and abide by it.

Posted by Kumar | Report as abusive
 

i think dr.singh is too afraid to contest the elections after he lost the south delhi seat in 1999. india needs brave leaders be it from any party, not scared people like dr.singh in the wake of serious geo-political threats faced by india. dr.singh either get elected from the lok sabha if you win the mandate or admit that the gandhi family is like the davis cup non-playing captain and you play just the role you are assigned to by them.

 

‘..opposition leader L.K. Advani …“Singh will be more acceptable to the people of India if he decides to fight the elections and go to the Lok Sabha,”Did Advani have a valid point?’— Right now Advani should be more worried of whether the people decide to vote for him as the next PM, as for M.Singh he’s had his full term of glory… so raising any such point is in itself an invalid point.

Posted by anup | Report as abusive
 

@i think dr.singh is too afraid to contest the elections after he lost the south delhi seat in 1999. india needs brave leaders be it from any party, not scared people like dr.singh in the wake of serious geo-political threats faced by india. dr.singh either get elected from the lok sabha if you win the mandate or admit that the gandhi family is like the davis cup non-playing captain and you play just the role you are assigned to by them.- Posted by NickNick: Can you identify anyone who is “not scared” and a “brave leader”? he is not doing anything unconstitutional. Only thing that you can resent is the constitution itself, not Singh.

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive
 

In a democracy based on one person one vote anyone including Mayavati can rise to become prime minister of the country. However, the requirements are – demonstrate leadership and competence, and earn the trust of the people.

Posted by S. S. Kere | Report as abusive
 

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