Jaipur: Former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor today said Parliamentary system was “ill-suited” to Indian national character but the country was “stuck” with it as it was conditioned to look at the British as “embodiment of everything”.
He said it was difficult for Parliamentary system to work in a country as populous and as diverse as India.
“One of the reasons we are stuck with this parliamentary system that is so ill-suited to Indian national character is because it was the system that the British ran and we were very well conditioned to look at the British as an embodiment of everything,” he said.
Speaking on the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival at a session entitled “On Empire”, Tharoor was in conversation with British Labour Party MP Tristam Hunt and journalist Swapan Dasgupta about British imperial rule in India.
The former minister recalled reading about how Indian nationalist leaders had reacted with horror when Clement Attlee, a member of the Simon Commission, had suggested that the country would be better off under a presidential system.
“The Simon Commission came in 1930, to explore very theoretically, the idea of a future constitution. Clement Attlee, member of that commission, reported in his diary he suggested to Indian nationalist leaders that they would be better off with a presidential system of government. He said they reacted with horror,” Tharoor said.
The Congress Lok Sabha MP from Thiruvananthapuram said India should not necessarily be grateful to the British for institutions the country inherited.
“We have a system of government that was created in a tiny island which is today a country of 60 million and each MP represents about 100,000 people.
“We then latched this on to our country with such diversity and extraordinary ranges of caste, creed, colour, culture, cuisine, conviction, costume and custom and expected it to work despite challenges of coalition government and we have done this in such a way that each MP is representing 2
million people. It is physically impossible to be in touch with all those you are representing.”
In the session which was virtually a sequel to Tharoor’s now-viral Oxford Union debate speech, he also said it was impossible to put a monetary value on historical reparations owed by Britain to India because the damage inflicted over 200 years was “colossal”.
“One cannot possibly put a value, especially not a monetary value, on the colossal damage inflicted by Britain on India over 200 years,” he said.
Hunt said the entire aspect of Britain’s imperial history had earlier not been taught in British schools, but was now being added to the syllabus.