Any Governance system implemented by the Constitution has to work in good times and bad times. The system must have means to correct itself after a temporary turbulent period. Hence, every balanced system must have the fail safe mechanism to return back to normalcy after disturbance. Indian Constitution provided sufficient flexibility to work in varied circumstances.
The Indian constitution provides means to tackle tough times using emergency tools like President rule in the state, financial emergency and emergency due to external aggression and internal disturbances. The Indian democracy withstood multiple wars during 1960 and even the dark time of emergency and came back to normalcy using legal means defined in the Constitution.
Also, the Constitution provided legal means to make Govt resign with no confidence motion without causing any turbulence. Multiple elected government fell during the 1960s and 1970s after the demise of Nehru in state and center level with democratic means. During 1972, elected Congress Government with 140 MLAs of total 168 seats fell within 2 years in Gujarat just by the protest by students and citizens forcing more than 90 MLA resigning from the assembly. That is the power of democracy.
Off late, there is rarely a case of Government resignation even after so much of discontentment among masses. Even minority or Coalition Government and a simple majority of a single vote is not resigning with mass protest.
In recent times, many agitations were organized to force elected Govt to resign. However, there is not a single case of that kind. Whosoever may like or dislike Anna Hazare movement, but even his mass movement cannot force a UPA coalition government to resign. Protest in Kashmir by Muslims, Jharkhand by tribals, Jats in Haryana, Gujjar in Rajasthan, Dalits in UP & Maharashtra, Gorkha in West Bengal, Farmers in TamilNadu, Patels in Gujrat etc are unable to force any elected Govt (by EVM) to fulfill their demand or resign. There are a number of mass protests led by Bhim army, Tamil Nadu farmers and many other who protested till Delhi and received support across the country which could not force a single MP / MLA to resign or revolt against the Government and make Government fall.
So, who can make Government resign or make it fall legally? Let’s look at the Constitutional option to understand who can force Government to resign.
Ideally, Judiciary should not intervene in the making or removal of executive due to the separation of power. However, the judiciary has the power to intervene in the difficult period to reinstate the democratic processes like the removal of a corrupt minister or PM Modi or removing Electronic Voting Machine. Judiciary had shown some strength during the early 1970s but a lot of changes after that has made the Judiciary useless to tackle executive malpractices. Presently, it is dominated by one caste Brahmin and there are many instances when the election dispute could not be decided by the Court during entire 5 years period (the period for which election took place). Hence, expecting anything from Judiciary is not a very reasonable choice.
Second, the President is the ceremonial head of the nation. Hence, expecting the President to do anything beyond the advice of the Govt is not the best thing for a stable democracy. President has not been given any power to remove an elected government which enjoys a majority in the House.
Third, the defense arm of the Government. The President is the head of all three arms of defense army, air force, and navy. It is the best for the democracy that defense forces don’t interfere with the formation or removal of Government. We have already seen that any interference of Defense service in the Government is suicidal for any nation like it happened in Pakistan.
Fourth, Mass protest is another means to force a government to resign. Dr. Ambedkar advice to people was “in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation, and Satyagraha.” Hence, the mass protest is not a constitutional mean to remove the Government.
Fifth, the executive consisting of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. The executive runs the government and they hold the power of Government machinery. The politicians who have great motive and every reason to hold the power do not wish to relinquish the power voluntarily. The executive is expected to be accountable to Parliament and shall resign from the powerful position only if it is forced to step down by the laid down process, as per the Constitution.
Sixth and the most important part of the Indian Governance system is the parliament and that is why it is called Parliamentary Democracy. Parliament is not sovereign as its decision can be challenged in Court. However, the Executive is accountable to Parliament and the Govt can remain in power till it enjoys the majority in the Lok Sabha.
Hence, Parliament is the only place to look for making the government accountable. If the government does not work as per the expectation of citizens, the citizens are expected to reach out to the Member of Parliament (MP) whom they have elected as representative from their respective constituencies. Thus, the respective MPs will make sure that either the government acts accordingly to satisfy the citizens or resign. Once the Govt resigns, alternative leadership will come to the nation which can fulfill the expectation of citizens.
This is the only legal constitution mean provided under the scheme of the constitution to make sure that the elected government fulfills the wishes of citizens otherwise the government must resign without waiting till the expiry of the term of the House i.e. 5 years period.
The design of the democratic system must be a failsafe system to make sure the liars are checked at the right time and not people need not wait for another 5 years. Even Presidential system, which allows a direct election for President for 4-5 years, provides such measures by giving a process called impeachment (also called Mahabhiyog). During the impeachment, majority Member of House can impeach the President.
The Indian governance system i.e. Parliamentary system allows similar process which is more dynamic called ‘No Confidence Motion’ wherein more than 50% of Lok Sabha MP can vote against the Government and make it resign. So, why the successive government is neither responding to the citizens’ demand nor resigning, thereby making citizens wait antagonistically till the expiry of the term of House i.e. 5 years. Every political party makes all kind of promises to win the election, however, when they win the election it hardly matters if they complete their promise or even tried their best to achieve that.
The answer to the question lies in 52nd Constitutional Amendment (Dal Badal Kanoon or Anti-Defection Law) which fundamentally altered the scheme of the Constitution. With this amendment, an individual member of Parliament is of no consequence. The Lok Sabha House is no more divided among 500 odd members. With the legal amendment, the house is only divided among 5-10 Party Heads (may or may not be LS members) of the parties represented in Lok Sabha. The party head holds power in proportion to their members represented in LS House. Now, the MP don’t represent their constituency, they are the only representative of the Political Party.
So, how to make Government fall in case it is unable to fulfill citizens demand and election promises. In case of a coalition or minority Government, citizens can still reach out to multiple parties to demand action from the government. But, what happens if a single party has the absolute majority and the Government is not acting on the demands of the citizens.
The citizens have only one way i.e. to reach out to the majority party which is same as Government and hence citizens are left with no option to make Government act or resign. There is only one person who can remove the Prime Minister legally, that is the party head of the majority party because only he has the power to force the members of the house to vote against the government.
In such case, there would not be any difference between a monarchy and an elected Government (with or without EVM) with no accountability during the term of House i.e. 5 years period. Hence, there are no constitutional means left to achieve the demands of citizens during the 5 year period, when Government with single party rule the nation and the government does not fulfill the demands of citizens.
Under such circumstance, Ambedkar’s advice that “we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives” does not hold anymore.
Ambedkar’s did give his opinion of an alternate method in the same speech stating that “When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods.”
Should the citizens go for an unconstitutional method, and will that not lead to the death knell of democracy? But the more important question is that does the democracy really exist without accountability?
Author – S. Kumar