The ascendance of BJP-led alliance to power at the Centre has led to the emergence of quite a few disturbing trends on the Indian political horizon. The BJP has managed to include in its National Agenda of Governance a provision for the comprehensive review of the Indian Constitution though it did not figure in the election manifestos of any of its pre or post-poll allies except itself. Similarly, in the name of greater stability at the centre, Home Minister L.K. Advani has proposed that the country opt for the presidential form of governance from the present parliamentary one. Again, this suggestion which could alter the very democratic set up of this multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country, did not find any mention either in the manifesto of the BJP or those of its alliance partners. Though it found a mention in its 1991 manifesto the BJP had deliberately skirted this contentious issue in its 1996 and 1998 manifestos as in order to capture power at the centre it needed regional allies who would not accept this totalitarian form of government wherein all the executive powers of the state shall be vested with one single individual, the President, as in vogue in the United State of America.
The current proposal did not dawn upon the Home Minister’s mind instantaneously nor could it be construed as an isolated thinking of an individual sans a good homework and a meticulously calculated strategy to ensure the continuance of power in the hands of the so-called uppercaste who constitute roughly 15 per cent of the Indian population. It is often seen that the upper-castes are not bothered about the system as long as it continues to dwell under their exclusive jurisdiction. Once this monopoly is endangered, they find fault with the very system they had given currency to with such fanfare, and shrewdly substitute it with the one of their liking which could consolidate their hold over the power structure afresh. Presidential democracy is one such gimmick the ruling combine is employing to check the steady decline of their hold over the levers of power and its impending shift to the hands of the Other Backward Castes and social justice groups in the wake of their late and tumultuous political assertion since the late 80s.
Presidential democracy no doubt suits the requirements of the uppercastes more than any one else. Besides the Muslims, they are the only community to qualify in some measure for the all India presence tag. The fragmentation of majority electorate on caste, sub-caste and linguistic lines is so intense that no caste has a sizable presence in even 50 of the total 543 Lok Sabha constituencies. Every caste is a regional one which belongs to a state or two. For instance, the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas are present only in Karnataka; Vanniars and Vellalars, only in Tamil Nadu; Kapus and Kammas, only in Andhra Pradesh; Ezhavas and Nairs, only in Kerala; Marathas and Kunbis, only in Maharashtra; Kshatriyas and Patels, only in Gujarat; Sikhs, only in Punjab and Delhi; Jats and Yadavas, only in some north Indian States. Outside their respective states, these communities command little following or recognition. As a result, any one from these communities graduating to the candidature of the president in the proposed presidential form of government would be a remote possibility due to lack of his broad national acceptance. The chances of a Muslim candidate to this coveted post is ruled out at the very outset as the Muslims are the least assertive community in political terms, even though they form the largest single block with 12 per cent of population constituting more than 10 per cent of the electorate in as many as 276 Lok Sabha constituencies compared to 76 by the Brahmins. Even today the uppercaste dominated national media, which is the maker or destroyer of one’s image and public perception, describes the OBC Chandrababu Naidus, the Deve Gowdas, the Laloo Yadav and the Mulayam Yadav as regional satraps catering to the parochial ambitions of their respective communities and regions, and the Hegdes, Tiwaris, Seshans, Swamys and the Vajpayees as state and national leaders. As a result, only those politicians would make a successful bid to presidency who command media-induced popularity. Needless to say these will be from the same privileged castes who have exploited the country since long. The initial reaction of the national media to this proposal suggests that if the 85 per cent non-uppercastes did not rise to the occasion and nip it in the bud, the media will have its day as usual in mobilising public opinion in its favour, and at the end of it, they would be left in the lurch for another fifty years. And this second innings is feared to have the necessary ingredients of a more severe servitude for the non-uppercastes. To sum up, the presidential system proposed by the BJP to this pluralist society is nothing but an extension of the philosophy of “one nation, one people, one culture” to include “one ruler” as well to fulfil its long-cherished dream of returning to the oppressive past under autocratic executive head.