ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Malfunctioning Executive

Andre Beteille’s analysis of Indian democracy, focusing on Parliament and the judiciary (“The Institutions of Democracy”, EPW, 16 July 2011) is disappointing since it ignores the executive, which is the third pillar of parliamentary democracy. The disappointment is all the greater in today’s context of the non-functioning or malfunctioning of the executive. In a parliamentary democracy, the prime minister could virtually be a dictator, provided he enjoys the confidence of the legislature. It is the legislature which is supposed to supervise and control the executive. The prime minister being the primus inter pares of the three pillars of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, he/she is presumed to ensure coordinated and cordial relationships among the three. Instead, the peculiar system of executive predominance and exclusivity has developed since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) first came into power. After overcoming the initial scare of disqualification for allegedly holding an office of profit, Sonia Gandhi went about establishing a super-government with the National Advisory Council (NAC) under her charge. Issues of policy and legislation are decided by this body and sent to the prime minister for implementation. The prime minister runs his own show with the large PMO and the system of Empowered Groups of Ministers and Committees of Secretaries. There is virtually a diarchy running the country. Parliament is ignored, except for essential legislation, money bills, etc, which have to be approved by it. The judiciary has naturally taken advantage of the situation through its current policy of activism.

Another characteristic of the UPA has been the ignoring of state governments and the establishment of direct links with the panchayats through the rural development programme and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. It is no secret that non-Congress ruled states are discriminated against. The federal system has suffered and centralisation of government has strengthened. The brouhaha over civil society is again a creation of the central government in its continued effort to belittle the legislature. It is puzzling to me why Andre Beteille concentrated on the legislature and the judiciary instead of taking on the urgent problem of executive incompetence and non-function.

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