Should India introduce a Prime Ministerial Debate?

By Himanshu Guru: There is a debate whether India should go for a Prime Ministerial Debate on the lines of US Presidential Debate or UK Prime Ministerial Debate to bring transparency to the political system of the country. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India has often witnessed “political bankruptcy”, as its leaders refuse to be accountable to the people.

We go for ‘Janmanch’, ‘Lokmanch’ and synonymous debates in electronic media, where three/four top leaders are called to discuss and provide their opinion on certain issues. Normally the agenda is prepared by the channel and they just need to answer (fight) on it. But constitutionally or customarily, we don’t have any such arrangement in India.

Prime Ministerial Debate is very much important as all the unbiased voters, those who usually aren’t partial to either political ideology or party, choose a candidate from this debate. In India, the percentage of this group is also quiet high to either elect or reject a candidate. But another obstacle, which restricts the scope for the Prime Ministerial debate in India is the hesitation of political parties to declare the Prime Ministerial candidate before the polls.

In a Presidential Debate, it has become customary for the candidates of the larger parties to engage in a debate. The topics discussed in the debate are often the most controversial issues. And, the outcome of the debate often influence the final results, which may not be a trend in Odisha.

In the US the first debate in1960 election drew over 66 million viewers out of a population of 179 million, the 1980 debates drew 80 million viewers out of a 226 million and the most recent one drew over 67 million for the first debate in 2012. This confirms that the debate is the deciding factor in election.

There is a change in our country. The candidates (not Prime Ministerial candidate) provide a long list of assurances that they want to execute, in case they get elected. Interestingly, these are just verbal announcements in public meetings and as per history, none of these are fulfilled after the election.

Ironically, in a country where the Prime Minister presents a national address (except the routine speeches during Independence Days) long after his government allegedly involves it in a series of scams and says that ‘Money does not grows in trees’, it is too difficult to think about a Prime Ministerial Debate before the election.

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