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Powers of the Prime Minister

The Constitution does not say very much about the powers of the Prime Minister or the ministers or their relationship with each other. But as head of the government, the Prime Minister has wide ranging powers.

1. He chairs Cabinet meetings.

2. He coordinates the work of different Departments.

3. His decisions are final in case disagreements arise between Departments.

4. He exercises general supervision of different ministries and all the ministers work under his leadership.


5. The Prime Minister distributes and redistributes work to the ministers.

6. He also has the power to dismiss ministers.

7. When the Prime Minister quits, the entire ministry quits.

Thus, if the Cabinet is the most powerful institution in India, within the Cabinet it is the Prime Minister who is the most powerful. The powers of the Prime Minister in all parliamentary democracies of the world have increased so much in recent decades that parliamentary democracies are some times seen as Prime Ministerial form of government. As political parties have come to play a major role in politics, the Prime Minister controls the Cabinet and Parliament through the party. The media also contributes to this trend by making politics and elections as a competition between top leaders of parties. In India too we have seen such a tendency towards the concentration of powers in the hands of the Prime Minister. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, exercised enormous authority because he had great influence over the public. 

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India

The first Prime Minister of Independent India. He was born in 1889. An intellectual who laid the foundation for a better India. Author of the famous book 'The discovery of India'. Died in 1964.

Indira Gandhi was also a very powerful leader compared to her colleagues in the Cabinet. Of course, the extent of power wielded by a Prime Minister also depends on the personality of the person holding that position.

Indira Gandhi-Daughter of first Prime Minister


Daughter of  the first P.M. of India Jawaharlal Nehru, was born at Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh) in 1917. India's first women Prime Minister. Awarded 'Bharat Ratna' in 1971.  Her bold polices led India to victory in the 1971 war against Pakistan. Assasinated in 1984.

However, in recent years the rise of coalition politics has imposed certain constraints on the power of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of a coalition government cannot take decisions as he likes. He has to accommodate different groups and factions in his party as well as among alliance partners. He also has to heed to the views and positions of the coalition partners and other parties, on whose support the survival of the government depends. While the Prime Minister is the head of the government, the President is the head of the State.

In our political system the head of the State exercises only nominal powers. The President of India is like the Queen of Britain whose functions are to a large extent ceremonial. The President supervises the overall functioning of all the political institutions in the country so that they operate in harmony to achieve the objectives of the state. The President is not elected directly by the people. All the Members of Parliament (MPs) and Members of State Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) elect him. A candidate standing for President’s post has to get a majority of votes to win the election. This ensures that the President can be seen to represent the entire nation. At the same time the President can never claim the kind of direct popular mandate that the Prime Minister can. This ensures that he remains only a nominal executive. The same is true of the powers of the President.

A casual reading of the Constitution would make us think that there is nothing that he cannot do. All governmental activities take place in the name of the President. All laws and major policy decisions of the government are issued in his name. The Chief Justice of India, the Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of the states, the Governors of the states, the Election Commissioners, ambassadors to other countries, etc. All international treaties and agreements are made in the name of the President. The President is the supreme commander of the defence forces of India. But we should remember that the President exercises all these powers only on the advice of the Council of Ministers.


The President can ask the Council of Ministers to reconsider its advice. But if the same advice is given again, he is bound to act according to it. Similarly, a bill passed by the Parliament becomes a law only after the President gives assent to it. If the President wants, he can delay this for some time and send the bill back to the Parliament for reconsideration. But if the Parliament passes the bill again, he has to sign it. There is one very important thing he should do on his own: appoint the Prime Minister.

When a party or coalition of parties secures a clear majority in the elections, the President, has to appoint the leader of the majority party or the coalition that enjoys majority support in the Lok Sabha. When no party or coalition gets a majority in the Lok Sabha, the President exercises his discretion. The President appoints a leader who in her opinion can muster majority support in the Lok Sabha. In such a case, the President can ask the newly appointed Prime Minister to prove majority support in the Lok Sabha within a specified time.


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