H.E. The Hon’ble Shrimati Pratibha Patil
President of India
As India is fortunately a Republic and not a Monarchy, we do not have a “Kissing Hands Ceremony” where “the monarch invites the incoming prime minister to form a government and swear allegiance to the throne”.
While we do not have such a ceremony literally, we do have its republican equivalent in the well-established constitutional custom of the President of India after a General Election inviting one person to be Prime Minister and to form the new Government.
It soon shall be your solemn duty to invite such a new Prime Minister of India to form the Government.
Given the results of the 15th General Elections to the Lok Sabha, that invitation may be extended only to the Leader of the winning coalition in the Lok Sabha, who is Shrimati Sonia Gandhi.
The outgoing Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, not having contested the Lok Sabha election, may not by you be invited to be Prime Minister at this stage.
What happened in 2004 was that Shrimati Sonia Gandhi declined to accept such an invitation and instead effectively appointed Dr Singh to be PM despite his not being a member of the Lok Sabha nor intending to be so.
This exploited a constitutional loophole to the extent that our Constitution did not explicitly state that the PM must be from the Lok Sabha.
What may have been passable as the hurried exploitation of a loophole in 2004 is surely not acceptable in 2009.
Why the founders of our democratic polity such as BR Ambedkar and Jawaharlal Nehru did not specify that the PM must be from the Lok Sabha was quite simply that it was a matter of complete obviousness to them and to their entire generation that this must be so — it would have been appalling to them and something beyond their wildest imagination that a later generation, namely our own, would exploit this loophole and allow a PM to be appointed who is not a member of the Lok Sabha and intends not to be so.
Ambedkar, Nehru and all others of their time knew fully well that Lord Curzon had been explicitly denied the leadership of Britain’s Tory Party in 1922 because that would have made him a potential PM when he was not prepared to be a member of the House of Commons.
That specific precedent (culminating a centuries-old democratic trend of political power flowing from monarchs to lords to commoners) has governed all parliamentary democracies worldwide ever since — until Dr Singh’s appointment in 2004.
In fact, when such an anomalous situation once arose in Britain, Lord Home resigned his membership of the House of Lords to contest a House of Commons seat as Sir Alec Douglas Home so that he could be PM in a manner consistent with parliamentary law.
I believe you are fully within constitutional law and precedent to invite Shrimati Sonia Gandhi to form the new Government of India after the 15th General Elections to the Lok Sabha. If she declines and instead requests again the use of the loophole to appoint Dr Singh as PM, I believe that parliamentary law and precedent requires him to resign from the Rajya Sabha and instead contest a seat in the Lok Sabha.
Subroto Roy, PhD (Cantab.), BScEcon (London)
Citizen and Voter
Postscript: Please see also here “Inviting a new Prime Minister of India to form a Government: Procedure Right and Wrong”.
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