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ONE HEAD

In Indian democracy, the relationship between the government and the party has often been a problematic one. The most extreme version of the problem was witnessed under the United Progressive Alliance government, when the party and the government were led by two different persons. This resulted in suspicions and allegations that the Congress president, who was also the chairperson of the UPA, did not allow the prime minister to take independent decisions on critical issues. Whatever the truth, the separation between the party and the government was evident and formed the context of another anomaly: for 10 years, India had a prime minister who was not directly elected by the people. In the Westminster model, from which many of the Indian political and parliamentary practices and conventions are derived, the division between the party and the government does not exist. In Great Britain, the elected leader of the parliamentary party becomes the head of the government. One outcome of this is the diminished importance of the party vis-à-vis the government.

Under the circumstances, the report that if Narendra Modi were to become the prime minister, he would also be the head of the National Democratic Alliance parliamentary party would suggest a return to the Westminster model. This will also end the complication that arose during the tenure of the UPA after Sonia Gandhi refused to become the prime minister. Ms Gandhi was directly elected by the people, but she made Manmohan Singh the prime minister, knowing full well that he belonged to the Upper House. What is worse is that Mr Singh did not even attempt to get himself elected to the Lok Sabha. Instead, he sat in the Rajya Sabha as a representative of a state to which he did not belong. Ms Gandhi’s decision not to be prime minister, whatever its political sagacity, did create a parliamentary impropriety. It also created currents of tension between the party and the government. This tension may not have been the intention of either Mr Singh or Ms Gandhi but it was embedded in the separation that was created. Many people wondered, not without justification, which was the real axis of power. If what is being heard about Mr Modi’s intentions is proven to be correct then a source of tension and speculation will be removed. Power and responsibility will both be vested in the hands of one individual.