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Home , � Presidential Election under the Indian Constitution
Addendum: Why is the Indian Constitution Unique

Presidential Election under the Indian Constitution
Addendum: Why is the Indian Constitution Unique

I have mentioned in past that "If the Indian constitution is a copy of the British and American systems, it’s the most intelligent and well customised copy ever made"


Today, I discovered another small tid-bit of a quirk adopted by the makers of the Indian constitution, the need for which is now being felt even in the US. This feature is called "Single Transferable Vote" also known as "instant-runoff". This feature is used by the Indian constitution to prevent any stalemate or gridlock (something the US legislative system has experienced), in the Presidential Elections. 
STV/IRV used in single-seat elections with more than two candidates. Instead of voting only for a single candidate, voters in IRV elections can rank the candidates in order of preference. Ballots are initially counted for each elector's top choice. If a candidate secures more than half of these votes, that candidate wins. Otherwise, the candidate in last place is eliminated and removed from consideration. The top remaining choices on all the ballots are then counted again.

This process repeats until one candidate is the top remaining choice of a majority of the voters. When the field is reduced to two, it has become an "instant runoff" that allows a comparison of the top two candidates head-to-head. IRV has the effect of avoiding split votes when multiple candidates earn support from like-minded voters
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting

In this answer on Quora, Dan Rosenheck, Data editor and sports editor at The Economist, argues that 
... the solution [to legislative gridlock] is not to scrap the checks and balances ... but rather to adopt new voting rules (like instant-runoff) [to] facilitate greater flexibility within political parties and hopefully the creation of viable new ones
Clearly, the makers of the Indian constitution envisaged such gridlocks and hence chose to use the STV system to prevent this. In fact, there are many other important considerations that become evident on the study of the Presidential election process. The process of election of the President of India is original and no other Constitution contains a similar procedure.

For example - there were two differing concerns which the makers of the Constitution battled with. In the American (and French) system, the President is elected by a direct vote from the people; but such an election can lead the President to assume disproportionate power over other representatives (like the Parliament), and overthrown the Republic to establish the empire with himself as emperor - this is what Napoleon did. However, a completely indirect election by the Parliament was thought not being sufficiently representative of Peoples' will. 

With the above two opposing considerations, the makers chose a middle path which would make the President, a broad, yet representative choice. The electoral college for Presidential election was expanded to include the elected members of the State Assemblies all over India, which means that the President is chosen by the nation as a whole, indirectly, through the elected representatives of the people and is thus not the representative of a particular constituency but of the nation. 

Thus it also necessitated that the President could not be chosen unilaterally by the party having a majority in the Parliament. This has become clearly evident today (and more so in the early 2000s) when regional parties and coalitions are representing many State Governments. 

Finally, such an election system also makes the choice of a President to be non-partisan and higher moral independence and authority. Of course, in times where the same party yields power in center and majority state (as was the case during Indira Gandhi's times and is becoming the case with BJP ruled states/centre under Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine), yet it does insulate the post of the President from arbitrary mind swings of the non-titular head (which is the Prime Minister of India).

Influence from Medieval Indian governance

The Indian system where the President is the titular head while the executive branch is led by a Prime Minister is not just a copy of the British Parliamentary Monarchy but rather an improvement over pre-British system of Governance already institutionalized in India under the Maratha empire. In the Maratha empire, Council of eight ministers - the Peshwa - acted as Shivaji’s secretaries. Peshwas were expected to be nominated by the Chhatrapati (Monarch) on merit, just like the US President today appoints his team of experts as 'Secretaries' after assuming office. 

The Peshwa system, originally conceived as a council nominated on merit, however degenerated as a hereditary title after Peshwa Balaji Vishwa­nath, as his son Baji Rao I suc­ceeded him to the post. Shahu’s [the then Chhatrapati] ratification of the succession of Baji Rao despite opposition of many of the high officials accelerated the process of the hereditary succession to the office.

It should be noted that many thinkers and leaders who were a part of the constituent assembly were students of Indian history, some were even successors of the erstwhile Peshwa ministers. They were well aware of the failings of a "President driven polity"; they saw the weakness of the Maratha empire to remain representative, in its ultimate fall to the British as the key reason for subsequent 200-year enslavement of India by the British Raj

The Presidential position and its election methods clearly illustrate how the makers of the Indian constitution created a system which would keep India alive, representative and strong to repel any future invasion - either of an external power or by an internal dictator. 

Hats off to all makers

Sources:

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Addendum: Why is the Indian Constitution Unique "

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