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In the parliamentary system of government, the Prime Minister is the most important post. He is the most powerful functionary who controls both the Parliament and the Executive. The Prime Minister is the head of the government because he is the head of the Council of Ministers. According to the Indian Constitution, the President is the nominal executive authority (de jure executive) and the Prime Minister is the real executive authority (de facto executive). In other words, the President is the constitutional head of state, but the real head of the government is the Prime Minister.
Appointment of the Prime Minister
The Constitution of India does not contain any specific procedure for the selection and appointment of the Prime Minister. Article 75 says only that the Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President. However, this does not imply that the President has freedom in the selection of the Prime Minister.
According to the parliamentary system of government, the President has to invite only that person to be the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha. If no single party has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, then the President may exercise his personal discretion in the selection and appointment of the Prime Minister. In such a case, the President usually appoints the leader of the largest party or coalition in the Lok Sabha as the Prime Minister and asks him to seek a vote of confidence in the House within a month. This discretion was exercised by the President several times. For example, Chaudhary Charan Singh (1979), V.P. Singh (1989), Chandrasekhar (1990), P.V. Narasimha Rao (1991), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1996), H. D. Deve Gowda (1996), Inder Kumar Gujral (1997) and again Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998) were appointed as Prime Ministers in this way.
There is also one more situation when the President may have to exercise his individual judgement in the selection and appointment of the Prime Minister. This situation occurs when the incumbent Prime Minister dies suddenly and there is no obvious successor. However, if, on the death of an incumbent Prime Minister, the ruling party elects a new leader, the President has no choice but to appoint him as Prime Minister.
According to the Constitution, the Prime Minister may be a member of any of the two Houses of Parliament. For example, Indira Gandhi (1966), Deve Gowda (1996) and Manmohan Singh (2004 and 2009) were members of the Rajya Sabha.
In 1997, the Supreme Court held that a person who is not a member of either House of Parliament (i.e., Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) can be appointed as Prime Minister for six months, within which he should become a member of either House of Parliament; otherwise, he ceases to be the Prime Minister.
Before the Prime Minister enters upon his office, the President of India administers to him the oaths of office and secrecy.
Term and Salary of the Prime Minister
The term of the Prime Minister is not fixed and he holds office during the pleasure of the President. However, this does not imply that the President can dismiss the Prime Minister at any time. As long as the Prime Minister enjoys the majority support in the Lok Sabha, he cannot be dismissed by the President. If he loses the confidence (majority) of the Lok Sabha, he must resign or the President can dismiss him.
The salary and allowances of the Prime Minister are determined by the Parliament from time to time. He gets the salary and allowances that are payable to a member of Parliament. In addition, he gets a sumptuary allowance, free accommodation, travelling allowance, medical facilities.
Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister
The Constitution of India does not make any specific provision for the powers of the Prime Minister, though the Prime Minister is the most important and powerful functionary of the Union Government. The powers and functions of the Prime Minister can be studied under the following heads:
In Relation to Council of Ministers-
The Prime Minister is the head of the Union council of ministers, and he enjoys the following powers related to the council of ministers:
- Members of the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
- The Prime Minister decides the portfolios of the ministers and can alter these at his will.
- He can ask a minister to resign or advise the President to dismiss him in case of difference of opinion.
- The Prime Minister presides over the meetings of the council of ministers and influences its decisions.
- He guides, directs, controls and coordinates the activities of all the ministers.
Since the Prime Minister is the head of the council of ministers, the other ministers cannot function when the Prime Minister resigns or dies.
In Relation to the President-
The Prime Minister acts as the link between the President and the Council of Ministers. He enjoys the following powers and duties in relation to the President:
- The decisions of the Cabinet are conveyed to the President by the Prime Minister.
- All the policies and decisions of the government are informed to the President by the Prime Minister.
- Prime Minister advises the President with regard to the appointment of important officials like Attorney General of India, Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Chairman and members of UPSC, election commissioners and so on.
In Relation to the Parliament-
The Prime Minister is head of the government and leader of the Lower House (Lok Sabha). He enjoys the following powers in relation to the Parliament:
- He advises the President with regard to summoning and proroguing of the sessions of the Parliament.
- He can also recommend dissolution of the Lok Sabha to President at any time.
- He announces government policies on the floor of the House.
Other Powers and Functions-
In addition, the Prime Minister has various other roles. These are:
- He plays a significant role in shaping the foreign policy of the country.
- He is the crisis manager-in-chief at the political level during emergencies.
- He is the chairman of the NITI Aayog, National Development Council, National Integration Council, Inter-State Council and National Water Resources Council and so on.
- He is the chief spokesman of the Union government.
- He is leader of the party in power.
Chief Ministers Who Became Prime Ministers
Till now, only six Chief Ministers have become Prime Minister of India. These Chief Ministers are Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V. P. Singh, P.V. Narasimha Rao, H. D. Deve Gowda and Narendra Modi. Morarji Desai was the first non-Congress Prime Minister.
To know about the Article Related to the Prime Minister, refer to the table
|Article No.||Subject Matter|
|74||Council of Ministers to aid and advice President|
|75||Other provisions as to Ministers|
|77||Conduct of business of the Government of India|
|78||Duties of Prime Minister as respects the furnishing of information to the President, etc|