The Opposition and its role

“A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with, the wind”- Lewis Mumford

But what if the wind insists turns into a hurricane every now and then?

The Indian constitution lists the important duties and responsibilities of the opposition as follows:

* Opposing the despotic tendencies of the ruling party.

* Criticizing the drawbacks in administration and exposing them before the public.

* Opposing the misdeeds of the rulers and generating public opinion about it.

* Evolving substitute policies and strategies in the realm of governance.

* Imparting political enlightenment to the public.

These are serious responsibilities. They should be so; otherwise we will be living under an autocracy. A giant democracy like India needs a healthy opposition to question the government’s policies and ensure that the government acts in the interests of the common man. Their job as elected representatives of the Indian people is to hold the government accountable for its actions.  The pressure of coalition politics and the corruption in the system makes the ruling party an easy target for the seductions of power, money and anarchy. We need a vigilante. The following headlines from dailies can give an overview of what we have.

“India’s parliament paralyzed by inflation protests”

“Nation loses Rs 13,000 crore; Opposition to continue stir”

“Opposition disrupts parliament over price rise”

“BJP leader calls Lalu and Mulayam, dogs”

I am not denouncing the BJP as a party.  The Congress behaved in a similar manner when it occupied the opposition’s role in the latter half of the last decade.

My general point of concern is the attitude of the opposition parties in India-“To oppose everything the government does or plans to do”.

We are subjected to similar scenes every time the Lok Sabha goes into a session. Use of foul language and physical assault, incessant shouting during debates, disrespecting the speaker, churlish tantrums during expulsions, absent MP’s, sleeping MP’s and the most common activity of the opposition – a walkout. They just love walking out. Never mind that each minute of a parliamentary session is worth Rs 26,000 of the tax payer’s money. Though not entirely to blame, the failure of the parliament to conduct its business smoothly also shows the opposition in poor light. Instead of taking on the government on substantive issues, corruption, bills, laws, etc., they are busy disrupting the house. A recent example would be the country-wide bandh called by major opposition parties to protest against the price rise. The only purpose it served was to bring the nation to a halt and resulted in a loss of Rs 13,000 crore. For the citizens, it meant discomfort and an extra holiday but the prices remain the same.

The root causes of the acrimony between the ruling party and the opposition is quite basic and obvious-the next general elections, state elections, power at centre et al. This makes the MP’s take personal potshots for individual gains.

If India has to retain the tag of a prospering healthy democracy, the opposition needs to step up its act. Yes, they have every legal right to object and discuss policies and bills that the government proposes. They by all the means can raise their voices against corrupt members of the ruling government and bring to notice unprofessional behavior of legislators and government agencies.

But is it too much to ask them to do so in a civilized manner? Can they not show their displeasure by engaging in meaningful dialogue? The floor is the ideal place to conduct debates on policies and bills. A constructive debate not only helps in pointing out the fallacies in a proposal, it also in formulating alternate courses of action. But what mostly such debates result in vague platitudes and accusations. We need people who look at issues from an objective point of view, keeping the welfare of the nation at heart. We need MP’s inside the parliament challenging bills, not outside on Dharnas. We need them to engage in sensible debates and come up with joint solutions.

“It is easier to be a pigeon than a sculptor — it is easier to dump on something than it is to make it better”. Let’s hope the current opposition and those in the future do not take this easy path and be vigilant so that we can progress as a nation

Sonal Bhadoria

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