The Prime Minister

As the President of India is a constitutional executive head, the real executive authority of the Union is exercised by the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.

‘The office of the Prime Minister has been created by the Constitution Article 78 which says: It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister

(a) to communicate to the President all decisions of the Council of Ministers related to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation;

(b) to furnish such information related to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may call for; and

(c) if the President so requires, to submit for the consideration of the Council of Ministers any matter on which a decision has been taken by a Minister but which has not been considered by the Council. ‘The Prime Minister is appointed by the President (Article 75). Generally, the President has no choice in the appointment of the Prime Minister and invites the leader of the majority political party in the Lok Sabha for this office. ‘The Prime Minister theoretically holds office during the pleasure of the President. But the Prime Minister actually stays in office as long as he enjoys the confidence of the Parliament, especially the Lok Sabha.

‘The normal term is five years but it is automatically reduced if the Lok Sabha is dissolved earlier. ‘The Prime Minister gets the same salary any allowances which are paid to the members of Parliament. He also receives a constituency allowance like other MPs. In addition, he is also entitled to a sumptuary allowance, free official residence, free travel, medical facilities, etc.

The Prime Ministers of India

  1. Jawaharlal Nehru- 15 August 1947’27 May 1964
  2. Gulzari Lal Nanda- 27 May 1964’9 June 1964 (Acting)
  3. Lal Bahadur Shastri- 9 June 196 ’11 January 1966
  4. Gulzari Lal Nanda- 11 January 1966’24 January 1966 (Acting)
  5. Indira Gandhi- 24 January 1966’24 March 1977
  6. Morarji Desai- 24 March 1977’28 July 1979
  7. Choudhary Charan Singh- 28 July 1979’14 January 1980
  8. Indira Gandhi- 14 January 1980’31 October 1984
  9. Rajiv Gandhi- 31 October 1984’2 December 1989
  10. Vishwanath Pratap Singh- 2 December 1989’10 November 1990
  11. Chandra Shekhar- 10 November 1990’21 January 1991
  12. Narasimha Rao- 21 January 199’16 May 1996
  13. Atal Bihari Vajpayee- 16 May 1996 ‘ 1 June 1996
  14. H.D. Deve Gowda- 1 June 1996 ‘ 21 April 1997
  15. Inder Kumar Gujral- 21 April 1997’19 March 1998
  16. Atal Bihari Vajpayee- 19 March 1998’13 October 1999
  17. Atal Bihari Vajpayee- 13 October 1999’22 May 2004
  18. Manmohan Singh- 22 May 2004’26 May 2009
  19. Manmohan Singh- 22 May 2009’Till date
  20. Narendra Modi- 26 May 2014-Till date

Powers of Prime Minister

‘The Prime Minister enjoys important powers, and performs numerous functions despite the functions as enumerated in Article 78 of the Constitution:

  1. ‘The President convenes and prorogues all sessions of the Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister.
  2. ‘The Prime Minister can recommend the dissolution of Lok Sabha to the President before the expiry of its normal term. On his own, the President does not order dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
  3. All the ministers of the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President on the recommendations of the Prime Minister.
  4. He allocates and reallocates portfolios among the various ministers. He can ask a minister to resign.
  5. He presides over the meetings of the Council of Ministers (the cabinet).
  6. He exercises and supervises over the working of other ministers.
  7. He give directions to the Council of Ministers;
  8. He acts as the channel of communication between the President and the Council of Ministers and informs the President with regard to all the decisions of the Council of Ministers.
  9. He, on the basic of the cabinet’s decisions, advises the President to proclaim a state of emergency on grounds of war, external aggression or armed rebellion.
  10. He advises the President with regard for the imposition of presidential rule in the states on grounds of breakdown of constitutional machinery as also, the imposition of an emergency due to financial instability. ‘The Prime Minister occupies a position of tremendous influence and prestige. ‘The real position of the Prime Minister depends, to a large extent, on his personality and the position of his political party in the Parliament.

‘The powers of the Prime Minister are, indeed, significant and his position really very important, particularly when, the office is occupied by a personality which is larger than the life. In relation to the President, the Prime Minister is his adviser, and a link between the Council of Ministers and the President. In relation to the Council of Ministers, the Prime Minister is the person who makes and unmakes the ministry, one who supervises its functioning; with his resignation, the whole ministry resigns; that is why that he is considered central to the working of the central government; he is, thus, described as the captain of the ship of the State.

In relation to the legislature (the Parliament), the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority political party of the Parliament or the majority coalition and accordingly, as the head of the government, the government’s chief spokesman; he leads in defending the government in the Parliament, in running the administration, in getting the budget passed from the Parliament. In relation to the nation, the Prime Minister is the leader of the nation by virtue of his being the leader of the Parliament. In fact, his office is the office of power, and that of the President, the office of honour and of respect. No wonder, if then, the parliamentary or the cabinet, i.e. the Westminster model system, is usually described as the Prime-Ministerial form of government.

‘The relationship between the Presidents and the Prime Ministers in India, has gone, on the whole, in line with the parliamentary system, i.e., acting in the last resort to the requirements of the parliamentary norms. Some of the Presidents did hold their personal opinions on public matters and at times did express them, but they have never violated ‘the Lakshman Rekha’ of the Parliamentary features. Some of the Prime Ministers, in over-doing the role they did not had, did more than what was not expected from them. Public opinion, as it emerges from the active media and assertive civil society in India, saves the worsening situation from time to time. Certain other factors change the relative role of the Presidents vis-a-vis the Prime Ministers. Among these factors, personality of the two offices occupied by the incumbents; a strong President and a weak Prime Minister will give us situations of President dominating the Prime Minister; the reverse may give us a different picture, which would be: Prime Minister dominating the President.

‘The relative strength of the political party provides us another factor: a clear majority supported Prime Minister would be in a commanding position than a coalitional government of Prime Minister. In any case, the Prime Minister is known as the captain of the ship of the state, and not the President; the ship sails even when the captain is weak. ‘The relationship of the Prime Minister with his Council of Ministers varies from person to person holding charge of the government. In a pluralist parliamentary democracies, the Prime Ministers work with his/her ministers, seldom dominating them and usually consulting them as did Nehru and Shastri; in a neo-patrimonial parliamentary form, the Prime Ministers work with his/her ministers, mostly dominating and listening to the ministers the advice which favours him/her as did Indira Gandhi in the later years of her prime-ministership; in the federal parliamentary coalitional system, the Prime Ministers work with the ministers, usually imposed on them and work under extreme constraints of supporting political parties, as during the coalitional era since the 1990s. Narendra Modi’s period of Prime Minister-ship begins on a promissing note of development as it has started initially, gives us a determined leadership fastly moving towards a better India.

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