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Is this the right time for India to debate swapping its parliamentary system for a presidential one?

Is this the right time for India to debate swapping its parliamentary system for a presidential one?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ultra-nationalist government, now in its second innings, will go down in history as one of the most centralised, top-down and one-person-centric government commanding a super-majority in Parliament.

India’s grand old party and the current opposition party, Indian National Congress, has an identity crisis. Not only it atrophied and been thrown into disarray with occasional defections, but it has also been adopting soft-Hindu nationalism or Hindutva-lite, especially on the more recent Ram temple issue, as a way out of its electoral misfortunes.

Shashi Tharoor, a leading member of the Congress, recently called for a change to a presidential system of democracy. “The parliamentary system we borrowed from the British has not worked in Indian conditions,” he said. “It is time to demand change.”

The schadenfreude cannot be missed on anyone as Tharoor represents a party whose historic commitment to parliamentary democracy is next to none.

However, this critique of parliamentary democracy – along with the recent demotion of Kashmir, the new citizenship law and the building of a Ram temple on a disputed site – points to a likely future where the “idea of India” and what it means to be Indian will be debated and redefined.

If such a redefinition comes to pass, the history of the founding of the nation and its...

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