Former president Pranab Mukherjee Saturday called for massive decentralisation in institutional building and questioned the legal authority of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
He said there was a need to further strengthen the Panchayati Raj system and maintained that concentration of power in the hands of the Centre and the PMO would affect the functioning of a democratic country like India.
The veteran politician was at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) here to deliver a lecture on "Articulating Policy and Institutional Agenda for Future Transformation of India."
Replying to a question from the audience as to why political parties shied away from the issue of empowering local institutions and governments, Mukherjee said, "In institutional building, there should be massive decentralisation."
Citing the example of the PMO, he said it had found a place in "our political vocabulary and "civil servants, politicians, parliamentarians know that a very powerful institution has been developed".
"But a simple legal question can be put as to where is its authority? In the text of the Constitution, 415 articles, 12 schedules — I do not find anywhere that any power has been given to the PMO," Mukherjee added.
He said an institution like the PMO would "overload our own ways of functioning" and "eat our entire energy and activity". The former president, however, was quick to add that he cited the PMO as an example and had no "grudge" against the institution.
Mukherjee said India could not imitate the presidential form of Government, where the president "enjoys all the power" and is the "real executive".
In India, the real executive is a collective body, the cabinet, accountable to Parliament, another collective body. And Parliament is accountable to its people, its elector.