Opposition and the Ruling Party are ‘frenemies’ in a Democracy   (10 Jul 2019)

There is a famous story, that someone asked Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru that why a strong candidate was not given a ticket to stand against Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Apparently, India’s first Premier replied that “I want persons like Atal ji to come to the parliament, otherwise who will stop the ruling government if it goes against public welfare”.

Let me remind my friends in the ruling party, that no opposition or negligible opposition is dangerous for democracy. Otherwise, who will put the brake on the ruling party? The very purpose of an enlightened democracy and successful democracy is defeated without a strong opposition. Otherwise, it may take dictatorship, monarchy and kingship trends in political system of the country.

The Congress Party is absolutely committed to its primary duty to the people of India and parliamentary democracy by discharging its duties as a responsible opposition party. The Party unanimously elected Smt. Sonia Gandhi as the leader of the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) for the new parliamentary session. On her part, the CPP leader thanked the “12.13 crore voters for reposing faith in the Congress Party”. The message was implicit to the citizens of India: the Congress Party respects the people’s decision and will sit in the Opposition to carry out its responsibility.

The Congress Party will welcome and applaud Modi 2.0 in the new parliamentary session on taking fresh guard in the government but they should not expect us to be lenient if the BJP-government is found to compromise with national interest, be it on tampering with India’s Constitution, liberty, secularism and neutrality, job creations for the youth in the country, opaqueness in government dealings or any other issue which impacts the masses’ welfare.

However, in contrast, none amongst the BJP have showed the grace of a winner in the post-hustings phase, which is normally expected from political parties in a democracy. Their disdain towards dissension and the Oppositions parties is unsurpassed in the history of constitutional and parliamentary democracy of India. Their leaders, both at the top and middle-rung are spewing fire about wiping out Opposition parties from the political landscape. I have no doubt in my mind to say that, it is probably the most unimaginable political hara-kiri in the journey of Indian democracy.

Do my friends in the BJP realize that, it would be the darkest chapter in the history of Indian democracy if the Opposition’s voice is silenced?

The fundamental questions that the Congress Party asks today in response to the ruling party’s hatred and disdain for Opposition parties, are the following: is the Indian-nation state getting transformed in an opposite direction when compared to the original promise of liberal constitutional democracy during the birth of the republic? Are the corrective measures of economic reforms that were started from the early 1990s to address some economic issues been replaced by a dangerous trend of re-forming the very idea of a pluralist and secular India?

Across the globe, nations have created inbuilt mechanisms in their parliamentary framework to protect the interest of the people and society from abuse of excessive power and control in one hand. In the UK, the opposition party leader is called the Shadow PM and his or her cabinet as the Shadow Cabinet. It means anytime the shadow PM can slip into the role of the ruling PM and likewise the shadow cabinet.

Modi 2.0 and the proponents of ‘no opposition parties’ within the BJP are well- advised to remember that, in this age of general return to sovereignty, the ruling party might find this a worthy question to ask – and they are right to do so – as the answers also concerns them. India’s governance system over thousands of years is based on open debate and political competitions, where ideas meet, clash, and are accepted or rejected by majorities of citizens. The best idea come from this confrontation, and so if there is no competition for power, the result is lose-lose for everyone. With no competition, citizens find that their voice is not heard and therefore retreat from politics—an action that is deadly for democracy.

One hopes in the coming days when the new parliamentary session begins, a vibrant and dynamic scenario of Indian democracy emerges, and not a dark and sinister scene from a crumbling edifice which seems to be looming ahead of all of us unless corrective steps are not taken immediately by my friends in the ruling party. Elections are only the pathway for the creation of a parliamentary democracy in India, making it function properly in the national interest is the duty and responsibility of both the ruling party and Opposition parties.

Rajeev Shukla