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  1. Why fixed-term government is a bad idea

Why fixed-term government is a bad idea

While one political party may have attempted to disrupt the proceedings, the floor management of the ruling party, and the methods of the Speaker, left a lot to be desired; imagine how things would be with an assured five-year term.

By: | Published: April 18, 2018 1:11 AM
government, fixed term, NITI aayog According to media reports, the NITI Aayog appears to be in favour of fixed tenures for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. (PTI)

According to media reports, the NITI Aayog appears to be in favour of fixed tenures for the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. To be sure, the certainty of tenure would aid better planning and implementation of projects. Moreover, it would create a level playing field since all political parties would know exactly when the next elections are going to be held; the ruling party cannot call elections six months or a year before its term is due to expire simply because its popularity is at a high. However, if the proceedings of the last Lok Sabha are anything to go by, the electorate—through their representatives in Parliament—must have the option to cut short the tenure of a ruling party. On most days, the Lok Sabha was adjourned within minutes, making it the least productive session in nearly two decades.

While one political party may have attempted to disrupt the proceedings, the floor management of the ruling party, and the methods of the Speaker, left a lot to be desired; imagine how things would be with an assured five-year term. The Finance Bill, the single-most important piece of recurring legislation, was passed with virtually no debate or discussion. There was also an attempt, earlier on, to push through key legislations like the Aadhaar Act by deeming them to be Money Bills because the NDA commands a majority in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha.

The proposed gag bill on the press, hastily withdrawn after the widespread opposition, is another reason why restrictions on unbridled power are a good thing—indeed, it would appear the same gag-press issue is still being pushed, this time under the guise of restraining online media. And, though the Speaker announced on several days that various MPs wanted to press for a no-confidence motion, this was not given due importance. The NDA’s numbers would probably have ensured the motion was defeated, but a no-confidence motion is an important part of democracy and can’t be given the go-by.

That said, the country cannot afford the instability caused by frequent elections due to governments being pulled down and the successor coalitions not being able to pull along for too much time either or not being able to pass even the first vote of strength in Parliament. One option, which will give Parliament a fixed five-year term but not the government, is to amend the rules so that a no-confidence motion is no longer about pulling down X’s government but is about electing Y’s government—the impact is the same since X’s government will get voted out but only by virtue of Y being elected. The purpose of democracy will have been served while ensuring continuity in governance.

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