Prime Minister


The executive powers of the President are exercised by the Council of Ministers.

The Constitution provides that “there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advice the President in the exercise of his functions”.

Here the word “shall” indicates that the President cannot function without the Council of Ministers.

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 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.

The Prime Minister is appointed by the President but the President does not have freedom in the selection of the Prime Minister.

Normally the President has to invite leader of the majority party to form the government.

In case no single party is in clear majority, the President invites the person who is likely to command support of two or more parties which make up majority in the Lok Sabha.

Once appointed, the Prime Minister holds office so long as he/she enjoys the support of the majority of members of Lok Sabha.

When no 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 situation, 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, for the first time in 1979, when Neelam Sanjiva Reddy (the then President) appointed Charan Singh (the coalition leader) as the Prime Minister after the fall of the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai.

The Prime Minister is normally leader of the majority party in Lok Sabha.

However, there have been cases when a member of Rajya Sabha was made the Prime Minister.

This happened when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was first appointed, Prime Minster in 1966, or when I. K. Gujral became Prime Minister in 1997 or when Rajya Sabha member Dr. Manmohan Singh became the Prime Minister in 2004.

In 1996 H.D. Deve Gowda was not a member of any House. He later entered the Rajya Sabha.

Members of the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

In a coalition government, the members of coalition parties have to be given due representation in the Council of Ministers.

The Prime Minister decides portfolios of the Ministers, and can alter these at his will.

In order to be a Minister, a person has to be a member of either of the two Houses of Parliament.

Even a person who is not a member of any of the two Houses can become a Minister for a period of six months. Within six months the Minister has to get himself/herself elected to either House of Parliament, failing which he/she ceases to be a Minister.

All the Ministers are collectively as well as individually responsible to the Lok Sabha.

The Council of Ministers consists of two categories of ministers.

These are: Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State.

The Cabinet Ministers are usually senior members of the party/coalition of parties.

The Ministers of State come next to Cabinet Ministers.

Some of the Ministers of State have independent charge of a department while other Ministers of State only assist the Cabinet Ministers.

Sometimes even deputy ministers are also appointed to assist the ministers.

Ministers other than Cabinet Ministers normally do not attend the meetings of the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister presides over the meetings of the Cabinet.

All policy matters are decided by the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister has the authority to reshuffle the portfolios of the Ministers or even ask for their resignation.

In case of resignation or death of the Prime Minister the entire Council of Ministers also goes out of office.

This is because the Council of Ministers is created by the Prime Minister, who also heads it.

The entire Council of Ministers is responsibility to the Lok Sabha.

 

Powers and Functions of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister is the most important and powerful functionary of the Union Government.

The Prime Minister is head of the government and leader of Lok Sabha.

The Prime Minister is principal advisor to the President, and the country’s visible face and spokesperson in the international affairs.

The Prime Minister being the head of the Council of Ministers selects the Ministers to be sworn in by the President.

The Ministers in fact are chosen by the Prime Minister and remain Ministers as long as they enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister distributes portfolios among Ministers.

The Prime Minister can drop a Minister or ask for his/her resignation.

The Prime Minister presides over the meetings of the Cabinet and conducts its proceedings.

As head of the Cabinet, he/she largely influences the decisions of the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister co-ordinates the working of various ministers.

Prime Minister is the link between the President and the Cabinet.

The decisions of the Cabinet are conveyed to the President by the Prime Minister.

It is he who keeps the President informed of all the policies and decisions of the Government.

No Minister can meet the President without the permission of the Prime Minister.

All important appointments are made by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

It is on the advice of the Prime Minister that the President summons and prorogues the session of the Parliament and even dissolves the Lok Sabha.

The Prime Minister is the “principal spokesman” and defender of the policies of the Government in the Parliament.

The Prime Minister is the leader of the nation.

The Prime Minister plays an important role in the formulation of domestic and foreign policies.

The President represents the country in the world arena, by participating in the international meetings such as NAM, SAARC and United Nations.

All international agreements and treaties with other countries are concluded with the consent of the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is not only leader of the Parliament but also leader of the nation.

 

Relationship between the President and the Prime Minister

The following provisions of the Constitution deal with the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister:

[1] Article 74

There shall be a council of ministers with the Prime Minister at the head to aid and advise the President who shall, in the exercise of his functions, act in accordance with such advice.

[2] Article 75

[a] The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other ministers shall be appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister;

[b] The ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the president; and

[c] The council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People.

[3] Article 78

It shall be the duty of the Prime Minister:

[a] to communicate to the President all decisions of the council of ministers relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation;

[b] to furnish such information relating 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.