Opinion » Lead

Updated: January 10, 2013 02:50 IST

Leadership that suffers a legitimacy deficit

Vinod Bhanu
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When even popular netas like Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar choose to remain unelected legislators, they undermine the democratic integrity of the political system

“Of the people, by the people, for the people,” embodies the spirit of democracy and the need for elected leaders who are accountable to voters for the decisions they take. In India, as the largest democracy in the world, it’s ironic that the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh (Dr. Singh is a Member of the Rajya Sabha), and three Chief Ministers are unelected leaders from the second chambers. This represents both a threat to democracy and calls into question the legitimacy of their position.

Only six States have the bicameral legislatures: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Jammu & Kashmir. Among these States, three Chief Ministers (CMs), Akhilesh Yadav (U.P.), Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Prithviraj Chavan (Maharashtra), are from their second chamber (Legislative Councils). The other three CMs, where the second chambers exist, are from the Legislative Assemblies and directly elected by the people.

The second chamber in all these States is known for its almost redundant status and abject performance. It has never been able to capture the attention of the public as an indispensable body or establish itself as a house of elders with social and political wisdom. However, interestingly, all the Members of Legislative Council (MLCs) enjoy almost the same privileges, perks, pensions and facilities as the Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs).

Constitutionally inferior

One wonders why, except in the case of Prithviraj Chavan, the two “popular” CMs, Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar, preferred to have the membership in the Legislative Council. Throughout his political career, Nitish Kumar, a follower of the great socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan, contested the Assembly and the Lok Sabha (Lower House) elections. However, to the “paradox of Nitish’s identity” in politics, he chose to be a member of the legislative council during his current chief ministership for two tenures, highlighting a lack of democratic sensibility.

In March 2012, the U.P. Assembly elections illustrated the rise of Akhilesh Yadav as a popular leader. The story of Yadav, though groomed into politics through a dynasty politics, personifies the rise of virtually all young leaders in recent Indian political history; he has unmistakably become a young political leader worth watching. However, this populist leader avoided facing a direct election to the Assembly which would have given him democratic credibility. The question is why do young leaders have such a non-committal attitude towards democracy, and its institutions and practices?

The pertinent question that arises is why a chief minister or prime minister cannot be from the second chamber. The answer is that it involves less democracy: the democratic deficit between the people and their representatives is too vast with serious issues of accountability. And it undermines the democratic integrity of the political apparatus. Moreover, the position of the second chambers in the States is constitutionally inferior unlike the second chamber of Parliament in some respects.

In Tamil Nadu, A.P.

There are high political disagreements about the establishment or abolition or re-establishment of the legislative councils in the States.

In Tamil Nadu, the former CM, M. Karunanidhi wanted to revive the Legislative Council in the State, abolished in 1986 by the then CM, M.G. Ramachandran of the AIADMK government. But all his attempts, in 1989, 1996 and 2010 failed. The current CM, Jayalalithaa, has taken a vehement stand against its revival.

In Andhra Pradesh, the Legislative Council was restored in 2007 by the Congress government. In 1985, the council was abolished by the then CM, N.T. Rama Rao of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who found the council redundant and caused a massive drain to the State exchequer. The TDP has opposed the re-establishment of the Council and categorically stated that it would abolish it again if it returns to power. Two more States, Punjab and Assam, have also asked for establishing the legislative council, and the request is pending before Parliament for its approval.

For and against

In the Constituent Assembly, there was a large body of opinion against a second chamber in the federal parliament and the provinces. Although the general consensus was in favour of a single House in the States, the Constitution-makers had to make a compromise in favour of the provision for a second chamber in the States. Jayaprakash Narayan was against second chambers, pointing out Prof. Laski’s opinion that “no safeguard necessary to the units of a federation requires the protective armor of a second chamber.” The system of indirect election is pernicious, and no second chamber has so far satisfactorily discharged the function of revising chamber.

In contrast to the above view, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar argued, though less assertively, that the “need for second chamber has been felt practically all over the world wherever there are federations of any importance,” yet he did not attempt to justify the existence of the second chamber on any of the commonly accepted federal grounds — such as giving equal representation to the federal states. It is also important to note that the amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 which deleted the requirement of being domicile in the State concerned for getting elected to the Council of States is clearly violating the principles of federalism.

Ambedkar was not supportive of the whole concept of bicameralism, but he opined that this could be a trial or experiment in the States. With the support of prominent members in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar made amendments that drastically curtailed the powers of the second chamber in the States.

In the U.K.

In the United Kingdom, since 1722, most prime ministers had been members of the House of Commons. Since 1902, all prime ministers have been from the Commons except once in 1963. That year, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who was Lord by hereditary peerage, became the Prime Minister. Soon after becoming Prime Minister, he renounced his Lordship, successfully stood in a by-election and became a member of the House of Commons. Furthermore, most senior members of the U.K. government are members of the Commons, though there are rare exceptions.

The House of Lords, which is a live paradox of British democracy, has been heavily in the news of last year. In the Queen’s Speech 2012, the current coalition government in the U.K. has pledged to reform the House of Lords. The proposed reforms included a fundamental change to the composition of the House of Lords with most members, approximately 80 per cent of them, being elected instead of nominated. Moreover, the size or the number of Lords would be significantly cut down from about 830 to 450 (the House of Lords is the largest second chamber in the world). This would have been a historically revolutionary change. However, sensing the possible rebellion of Conservative MPs, Prime Minister David Cameron renegaded on his earlier position and withdrew his support. On August 6, 2012, and with no realistic chance of the reforms getting through the House of Commons, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, announced the decision to drop the House of Lords Reform legislation for the time being. While announcing it he said: “I support an elected House of Lords because I believe that those who make the laws of the land should be elected by those who have to obey the laws of the land. That is democracy — and it is what people rightly expect from their politics in the 21st Century.” Further, he added: “An unelected House of Lords flies in the face of democratic principles and public opinion, and it makes a mockery of our claim to be the mother of all democracies.”

From a vantage point of democracy, both Nitish Kumar and Akhilesh Yadav conspicuously failed to bring democratic legitimacy to their position, as they are not directly elected by the people. Dr. Singh’s case is the nearest analogy, lacking a chance for a democratic recourse.

(Vinod Bhanu is Executive Director, Centre for Legislative Research and Advocacy, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.)

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The Second chamber is currently used for political patronage or to keep the nuisance value of a person or group to the minimum. In the States we can abolish the second chamber and save the exchequer a good lot of money in the form of salaries, allowances, travels, security, accomodation, pension etc. If a person outside the election process is voted in by the ruling party thena s.he needs to seek a mandate within ashort period of time. Chavans, Yadavs ans Kumars will not be allowed to function unless they win in the election.

The Rajya Sabha, off late has been used by the ruling party to block debates and legislation (Loakpal bill) with the active participation of the ruling caoalition. Rajya Sabha was construed as a speed breaker of the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha has given up that role long ago and runs tramples over the lawsa like the Lok Sabha.

Anyone appointed as a leader without having faced the election is practicing a fraud on the citizens.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Jan 10, 2013 at 10:45 IST

As economics teaches us to find Return On Investment, to do Cost
Benefit Analysis, the very existence of upper house at Centre and
bicameral legislatures in states should be shut down with immediate
effects. It is also difficult to justify them in terms of democratic
set up. However, said so, in India we are still contained with such a
system of governance. It is also interesting to note that there had
been no furore or intellectual discussions on the same till date. We
all are ware of the powers and responsibilities of President in Indian
democracy who is not elected by popular voting, same applies to
bicameral legislation systems too. There is an urgent need to analyse
the cost and resources spent on their operations to the benefit to the
people they are generating.
I am also keen to study the cause of existence of such bicameral

from:  H Sanguri
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 21:26 IST

What the author of the article pointed out is true to its core.As said
by L.K.Advani a few months back,
Prime Minister of the Government should come only from peoples
house(Lok Sabha). At present political class paints various other
issues , to satisfy their motives accordingly,but never they come out
with true reforms in the electoral process.At present all the parties
are merely using upper houses as a backdoor entry, to enter the
"executive circle", though rejected by the popular vote.
Also,no subjective discussions are taking place in the upper houses ,
merely becoming redundant,

It cannot really serve the acute definition of
democracy(Demos+Cratia).The debate that came in the house of Commons
is highly appreciable and in India too our political class should take
forward this crucial issue though critical.Can one expect that a Prime
Minister from a world's largest democracy for more than 9 continuous
years , is not by a popular mandate?.

Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 15:54 IST

I wonder after reading this article how the existence of bicameral
legislature would affect the polity of my state Jharkhand where there
has never been a complete 5 year governance. Earlier when 'guruji'
sought the chief ministership he was not the member of the house and he
even failed to obtain a membership falling way short in the Tamar
constituency election. It definitely seems that in circumstances such as
these the vidhan parishad would have made way for an easy backdoor entry

from:  Vipul Kumar Pathak
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 15:42 IST

I think bicameralism with multiparty democracy is the way to go, it is a way to contain any catastrophic steps by government of the day like emergency or constitutional amendment due to shah bano case. I don't know how members in upper houses in States are elected. But if it is not like rajya sabha, then suggestion would be to nominate members from each party based on strength in lok sabha and lower houses of bordering states. I think this will lead to improved national integration.

from:  Praveen Nair
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 15:21 IST

I would like to thank the author of this article Mr Vinod Bhanu for
enlightening us on the "Legitimacy deficit". Is it because of this
"Legitimacy Deficit" the PM is also absolving himself from the some of
the critical authorities and responsibilities.

I believe you have put forth the law and the best practices, but why the
New paper has given a disclaimer statement of " The views expressed are
personal". May be another case of "Legitimacy Deficit"

from:  Rajendran M
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 15:15 IST

It is not as if all the elected members are paragon of virtues. We need
to keep in mind the ground realities before giving vent to all these
impractical sentiments.

from:  Raghusn
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 14:24 IST

Bicameralism is serving no purpose in country like INDIA where there
power is severely limited. They don't have power of rejection,
acceptance as that of Upper House of Parliament and only serves as a
tool to just delay legislation and there INDIRECT nomination and
election is also source of so much corruption, nepotism where contestant flow money like water although there is prescribed Secretariat and qualification but on execution all are sidelined and
reinforced only ideology/psychology of party which is in power add to
this is there salary and privileges which are huge burden on public exchequer.

from:  AMIT
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 14:09 IST

What I feel is it does not matter whether he comes from house of commons or house of elders, only thing matters is how he works, his vision and reforms he brings.

from:  NAVEEN SK
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 13:42 IST

every thing has its virtues and vice. Bicameral assembly on one way
makes our democratic structure stronger and vibrant while on the other
hand it is also used as backdoor entry point for the persons who are
rejected by house of people.Well, democracy is also not flawless
concept as it shows its drawbacks when it can't elect a candidate who
is supposed to be highly educated , honest and dedicated to the
welfare of whole country rather than a particular area.This holistic
approach is sometimes lethal for these candidates.Also some good
candidates can't inculcate the ugly vote politics which plays a major
role in all elections. people of some constituencies want an
unconditional support from their MLA in the issues related to
particular area without looking into the pros and cons of the
issue.Some times the influence of a local goon or extremist
organisation can make the most suitable candidate to loose the if utilized properly bicameral assembly makes our
democracy stronger.

from:  nilotpal rai
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 13:37 IST

In India,democracy it seems is 'of some people' 'by some people' 'for some people'! The
others seem to be a mere excuse of a democracy to tell the world that it is the largest
democracy in the world and get some kudos out of it. Real democracy can only flourish in a
climate of informed and educated public who would vote for the right reasons instead of all
those wrong reasons they vote for now in India! Ignored or organized, the highest number
constituency states strangely are also the the most illiterate in the country. The political class
knows that,more illiterate the population, much easier to manipulate and control the mass.
Remember, India got her independence for more than sixty years and educating the public
could have been complete by now! But, that was not to be so!

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 13:37 IST

When the member of the lower house is to be the minister or chief
minister then why should not the upper house. But the chief minister and
prime minister must be from the lower houses because its fact that
they are the actual representator of their area.

from:  Ashish Kumar Dubey
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 12:04 IST

In my understanding, the upper house is populated primarily by representatives appointed by
the State Legislature, and probably expected to safeguard state interests in a federal setup.
Therefore, it is not correct to say that they do not enjoy the mandate of the people at all. The
fact is that even in the Lower House, representatives act as stooges of their political
leadership, and do not consult or confer with people in their constituencies. In my opinion,
there is no difference between an MP in LS or RS because they are minions of the autocratic
political parties they belong to, and they follow and are expected to follow their leaders
mindlessly. Even the media and public encourage this when they look down upon
disagreements within a political party (even if it is usually a power struggle). I feel that politics
in this country can be cleaned up only if elections are made mandatory for political party
leadership, and those elections are conducted free and fair by the Election comm.

from:  Thomas George
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 11:17 IST

in a democracy only elected members should be made ministers CM or PM to prevent a mockery of the system where puppets are given important positions to follow the orders of their poltiocal masters. U.P has become an example of poltical fiefdom and heirs being appointed and given all important positions. The state is run by a particular caste members and of a family whereas all others have to obey the master. The very policy against which they fought and won elections throughout are being followed by the same people when it comes to sharing power. These corrupt should not be allowed to get power and should be defeated electorally as once they are in power they get into all illegal and corrupt practices which rotten the system. UP has become a crime,corrupt,casteist and undeveloped state because since last 15-20 years these people have been in power and deteriorated the growth and devlopment of the state

from:  saad
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 11:02 IST

When the Prime Minister of the largest Democracy in the World is not elected by popular vote, why you blame the Chief Ministers for the same fault? Constitution should be amended accordingly that only a Member of Lok Sabha should be elected as Prime Minister of the Country.

from:  Balasubramanian A
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 09:23 IST

Does the writer feel that those who are elected to the lower house are
legitimate representatives of the people! Parliamentary democracy as
practiced in India is a big farce!Right from its inception the
legislature in India has never represented the aspirations of the people
but has only subverted them.

from:  umesh bhagwat
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 08:13 IST

Bicameral legislatures have been understood as a check and balancing force to make
democracy workable with well-considered decisions by having a second look at the laws
passed by the lower chamber. They were in place when the law-makers did not have the
advantages of today's technology and instant news dissemination by 24 x 7 news channels.
Public-opinion is vital for democracy. But the real " spirit " of democracy resides in those who
practice it by adhering to basic values of governance. Other instrumentalities in whatever
way we construct it, could be dysfunctional or manipulated to become dysfunctional and
deprive the citizens good governing democracy.

from:  G. Narayanaswamy
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 08:03 IST

Bicameralism in India needs to be abolished not only in states but at the Center too.The very concept of Democracy is defeated by this process which is probably being continued to afford BACKDOOR
entry to Politicians who are not too sure of their popularity or chances of winning the electorate's confidence.One classic example of the Government's chicanery is sufficient to drive home this point which alone should be more than enough to scrap the Upper House unless by popular election by the people.There was this politician(quite powerful,popular and a confidante of the High Command of his party)who lost the election in his own constituency
which clearly established that he was no longer popular with his own people.But this man was brought through the rear entrance viz.the Rajya Sabha and made a Minister.What then is the value of the people of his constituency who has discarded him because they had lost their trust and faith in him?

from:  Raj Kumar
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 07:36 IST

Nice article !!!!
At sudden glance at our Parliamentary system what we see/ observe is
that the original idea of bringing more socially & politically
awakened people to second chamber seems happening up to a certain
extent when we see Rajya Sabha but situation looks pale
while it comes to States. Certainly
legislative councils of states have become redundant today but I am
unaware how were they at the time of inception?

from:  Vineet Kumar Singh
Posted on: Jan 9, 2013 at 05:03 IST
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