Every year, 26 January is celebrated by every Indian, as Republic Day. A day to celebrate the fact that head of the state is elected by people, he is not a king or queen. The elected head of state symbolises that real powers of the state vest in its citizens. It is a different thing that we celebrated this year’s Republic day by inviting a king who himself is not elected, but is a ruler because of Monarchical establishment.
There is no doubt that the head of state is elected indirectly. But, in our country i.e. India, do the real powers of state lie in common citizens? To understand this, when we look at the powers of the President, he has little discretionary powers. Since the Constitution of India has provided for parliamentary form of government, the President has been made only a nominal executive, the real executive being the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister. The power exercised by the President is on the advice of the Union Cabinet. In that case, to make sure that real powers of state lie in its citizens, the Prime Minister should be elected in such a way, which entertains every citizen equally.
India has adopted the territorial representation for the election of members to the Lok Sabha and legislative assembly, the members of which are elected directly through first past the post (FPTP) system. In this system, a candidate who secures majority of votes is declared elected. But, the problem is this system doesn’t represent the whole electorate. For example, in the Delhi state assembly election, Aam Admi Party secured 54.3℅ of votes, but got 67 out of 70 seats which is equal to 95.7 ℅ of seats. It means that people who voted for BJP in Delhi are under represented, while those who voted for Congress and other parties are not being represented at all. Similarly in the 2014 general elections, with just 33℅ of votes, BJP got more than 50℅ of seats. Interestingly, with just 3.27 ℅ of total votes, Jayalalita’s AIADMK was the third largest party and won 37 seats in 2014, while BSP with more vote share (4.2℅) couldn’t get a single seat. This happens in almost every election, and therefore every citizen is not represented equally. Some are over represented, some under represented, while some others, especially minorities are not represented at all.
The system of proportional representation aims at removing the defects of territorial representation. Under this system, all sections of the people get representation in proportion to their number. Even the smallest section of the population gets its due share of representation in the legislature. In fact, some members of the Constituent Assembly had advocated for this system, the Constitution has not adopted it due to two reasons i.e. difficulty for voters to understand this system and tendency of this system to lead to instability. These two arguments are contestable, especially when we look at the arguments behind choosing parliamentary system instead of presidential system. On the question over presidential system, Dr BR Ambedkar pointed out in Constituent Assembly that ‘a democratic executive must satisfy two conditions: stability and responsibility. Unfortunately, it has not been possible so far to devise a system which can ensure both in equal degree. The Draft Constitution in recommending the parliamentary system of Executive has preferred more responsibility to more stability.’ As per this statement, the rejection of Proportional Representation on the basis of instability seems unreasonable. Moreover, after 70 years, the people of India have much political awareness and now they should enjoy the best possible form of democracy which they can have.
Nowadays, the voters are confused on who should be the basis of his vote; the Prime Minister/Chief Minister or the leader from his local constituency. This dilemma was more visible in 2014 general election when elections were fought in the name of Mr Modi, currently this dilemma can be seen in UP where people are finding it difficult to decide on Chief Minister and local candidates. The decision of voters will be better if there are less confusion among them. The votes can’t be asked on the basis of caste, race, region or language, in that case FPTP can’t ensure that the elected person is the best possible choice to represent a local constituency. Additionally, it adds dilemma among the voters, who are often misled by false promises at local level. Proportional representation system will reduce the confusion among voters.
Among the other arguments against proportional representation system, the most common one is, it increase significance of party system. It is true, but even without the proportional representation, the elections in India have revolved around political parties. The anti defection laws have left little or no discretionary power to elected candidates. The elected members of assemblies are bound to follow the direction of their party. It is to be noted that party decisions are rarely taken in democratic manner, and the elected members have to follow what their boss(es) tell them. Hence, the purpose of proper representation to every constituency is not fulfilled. In fact, the discretionary power to council of ministers, which advise President are limited by the nod of Prime Minister, who is generally the head of party in power. It is the duty of every minister to stand by cabinet decisions and support them both within and outside the Parliament. If any minister disagrees with a cabinet decision and is not prepared to defend it he must resign. Dr BR Ambedkar, CD Desmukh, Arif Mohammed and others had to resign because of their different position. Hence, it is unreasonable to expect that an elected member from a particular constituency will stand by the cause of its people, if it is against his Party. When political parties have already got that much importance in our system, there is no reason to reject Proportional Representation because it will increase significance of Parties.
Our founding fathers didn’t chose this system because of low literacy, poor economy and challenging situation. But today, India is third largest economy, with enormous political enthusiasm, and is stable democracy. When FPTP system has failed to ensure what it promises i.e. uniformity in representation, it is to time bring a system which ensures equal representation for every section of population and make India a republic, where real powers lie in its citizens.