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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 36, August 29, 2015

Referendum — Indian Style

Monday 31 August 2015

by M.C. Pindwal

Looking at the impasse in both Houses of the Indian Parliament in the monsoon session of 2015, it is desirable that we evolve a system to overcome such situations which are increasing over the last few years. Hence this idea of referendum, that is, to go back to the electorate on certain key issues of public and national importance. Following are some such issues of public importance. It may be a continued deadlock in Parliament as seen these days. Or if an ordinance is continuously repeated more than twice, as in the case of the Land Acquisition Bill at present, or if more than four ordinances are issued in a year, bypassing Parliament. In such cases a referendum should become necessary on completion of two years in office, to assess that the government is on the right track as per their manifesto and promises during the election through which they have come to the power and for further continuation in the office, the government should acquire not less than 50 per cent of the votes that they polled while capturing power.

The referendum should be supervised and undertaken by the Election Commission of India.

During the referendum if a government gets less than 50 per cent of the votes but more than 25 per cent votes, then the party in power may continue with the change in head of government to ensure that the promises and commitments made in the manifesto are kept in toto to fulfil the aspirations of the public who have given power to the party to rule and look after their well-being.

But, if the electorate gives a verdict which is less than 25 per cent of the votes originally polled while coming to power, then in such a public show of dislike for the government, the head of the government along with its Cabinet should henceforth resign immediately in public interest and the party in power must seek a fresh mandate from the electorate—the people of India.

Only if the aforesaid course of action is followed, then we shall be able to keep Indian democracy alive and vibrant with the hopes and aspirations of the people.

The President of India shall call for the public referendum through notification on certain key issues after satisfying that the government is not functioning smoothly as per the promises made by the political party in power in its election manifesto.

Before issuing the notification the President shall give an opportunity to the Prime Minister of India calling for his report on such issues in a fortnight’s time.

This exercise shall be undertaken by the President only after he has received memo-randum from the Members of Parliament in this regard which shall be signed by no less than 100 MPs, after which the President shall request the Election Commission to conduct the referendum, the result of which shall be declared within a period of two months.

Similarly the State governments can under-take the task to remove a similar deadlock and hold referendum. For which the petition should be signed by no less than 10 per cent of the MLAs.

The author, a retired IRS officer, has a degree in journalism as well.