The question of whether India should switch to a presidential system and ditch its parliamentary form of government keeps resurfacing. In the 1970s Indira Gandhi considered this switch, and in the 1990s so did Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In 2013, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy asked the Rajya Sabha to adopt that system’s key features. And most recently, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor reiterated his long-held stance that changing to a presidential system would deliver a better functioning democracy.

Such bipartisan support over all this time attests to that system’s merits. Many experienced leaders see how it delivers a more robust democracy because it is decentralised and uses direct elections. And it provides greater accountability because it separates executive and legislative powers, making both work under real checks and balances.

Concerns over presidential system

Some Indian thinkers have had valid concerns. Professor Ramesh Thakur, an ex-United Nations colleague of Tharoor, outlined many of them recently in a column entitled “In Parliament’s Defence”. He says the fault for India’s ailing democracy “lies not in the system but in politicians who have corrupted the institutions”.

He argues that parliamentary democracies are more stable and decisive because since powers are fused, executive-legislative clashes are rare. The presidential system frustrates the...

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