Monday, 8 August, 2022
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Opposition is feeble. Modi & BJP will have to walk the extra mile to keep it alive

The grand failure of the Congress in the elections has led to a very strange situation in the Lok Sabha.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed magnanimity when he assured the opposition this week that their views will be heard and given equal importance in the Lok Sabha, no matter the number of seats they won. Then he held a meeting with opposition leaders to discuss the issue of simultaneous elections. It shows that Modi, in his second term, understands the value of opposing ideas in a democracy and is ready to go out of his way to accommodate them.

The prime minister has made his move. It’s time for the opposition to pick up the gauntlet and uphold democracy.

In his characteristic style, Modi mentioned three words that sum up the attitude of the BJP towards this feeble opposition in the new Lok Sabha: “When we come to Parliament, we should forget paksh (treasury) and vipaksh (opposition). We should think about issues with a nishpaksh (impartial) spirit and work in the larger interest of the nation.”

The grand opposition’s grand failure

The grand failure of the Congress in the elections has led to a very strange situation in the Lok Sabha. The party has not only been limited to just 52 seats, there are now very few strong, opposing voices in Parliament. The absence of an effective opposition is on everyone’s minds, including Modi’s.

Beyond small numbers, the opposition is also characterised by the total lack of leadership qualities or urge to fight back with vigour.

Rahul Gandhi, no matter what the Congress may claim, insists on giving up his mantle. During the joint session of Parliament Thursday, he was seen browsing his phone during President Ramnath Kovind’s speech, which can only be interpreted as indifference. The Congress is in a dilemma – to participate in democratic exercises or look for a new president (and whether the new president should be from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty or not).

Last year, things didn’t appear to be so gloomy for the Congress. It defeated the BJP in three crucial state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and hopes were high on its performance improving. But in a series of setbacks – from loss of strategic coalitions to failing to capture the national narrative – the Congress lost the plot. It had to make way for the BJP not only its own strongholds but even in states where the BJP was weak.

The mahagathbandhan was cobbled together – something that sprouts every Lok Sabha election – but it clearly failed and by April, the Congress was struggling to find a voice.

It was sheer luck or rather the force of circumstances that the Congress had accepted the munificence of the DMK in Tamil Nadu, and won eight out of the nine seats it contested. But for this, the party’s strength in the Lok Sabha would have remained more or less the same as it was in 2014.


Also read: Rahul Gandhi says he’s not involved in the process to pick new Congress chief


Opposition in Parliament

The dance of democracy requires an opposition.

Issues such as ‘one country, one election’ and the Women’s Reservation Bill need deeper deliberations and inputs from the opposition. In the past, the Lok Sabha  has witnessed spirited debates on issues such as the new Land Acquisition Bill, introduced in 2015, which could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha due to united opposition.

During the UPA regime, the contentious Communal Violence Bill was opposed tooth and nail by then opposition forcing the government to discard it. The Triple Talaq Bill had to pass through the fine comb of the opposition during Modi’s first term. A serious and alert opposition can keep the ruling party in check, become the voice of the underrepresented and, in turn, strengthen the democratic process.


Also read: In photos, some opposition leaders gave PM Modi’s all-party meet a miss — others attended


Ruling without an opposition

Now, with the elections done and dusted, the asymmetry in Parliament looks even more glaring. The few opposition parties that will be in the Lok Sabha lack strong ideological moorings. But that is the general state of Indian politics. Many politicians even joined the BJP around the elections, proving that ideological gymnastics is no problem in today’s India.

Except for the Communist parties, now in a highly endangered state, no other party has had a consistent and ideological stand against the BJP, however wrong and unpopular.

The onus of taking the opposition along now rests squarely on the shoulders of the BJP, and more importantly on Prime Minister Modi himself. It may be tempting for the BJP to roll out the red carpet for fence sitters and weaken the already slender opposition, but that will add no value either to the ruling party or to democracy.

Most of the decisions on bills are made in the committees under the relevant ministries, which have representatives from every political party. It is here that the opposition could play a much greater role and do their homework diligently.

Finally, not inside Parliament alone, but a larger role awaits the opposition outside of the two Houses, among the people where their credibility will be put to test.

The author is former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.


Also read: Numbers don’t matter, we’ll give tough time to Modi govt in Parliament, opposition says


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I think it is the shame of winning an election illegitimately, an unfair battle with all the institutions, media, business and capital on your side. In their hearts, Modi and others in BJP also know they won an election they did not deserve to win. The sooner you fawning journalists get your head straight and stop blaming the opposition for their loss, the better it will be. Show some courage to call this an illegitimate victory. You know these people do not deserve to be in power. Do not expect others to clean up for you. It is a mess that has been created and you too will have to live in it. Start a revolution. Show some spine.

  2. Nothing is permanent in human affairs. Not just the opposition, which needs to get its breath back, the media – a large swathe of it – is equally feeble, not asking the tough questions. Then stuff happens, like children dying of encephalitis in Muzaffarnagar, even as its MP sits in Delhi, coining four letter acronyms. Keep the performance levels high. The public mood can be fickle.

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