No Opposition: Good or Bad?

“The Congress may fail to secure the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ post in Lok Sabha for the second time in a row as it does not even have the minimum number of members required to stake claim to the position.”

This news item did not come as a surprise to me, still it got me into thinking about the future of parliamentary proceedings in the next five years…

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha and has around 42 per cent representation in the Rajya Sabha. The main opposition party’s alliance, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has been reduced to a mere 17 per cent in the Lok Sabha and 26 per cent in the Rajya Sabha. Is this good news for the country? Can we expect the Parliament to be productive this term? Can we see some quick decisions being made?

Well, the answer is not so simple. The opposition parties serve a very important purpose in a democratic set up in spite of being from the losing side. They help keep the ruling party in check. They play the role of a devil’s advocate. They help take the voice of people to the government. Sadly, the current state of affairs is worrying as the opposition parties have a very minor representation in both the houses of Parliament. To make matters worse, the main opposition party, the Congress, seems to be busy licking its wounds. It is still playing the blame game for its defeat and has not yet pulled up its socks.

This is the time that all opposition parties should come together to work for the common good. They may not have won the elections, but they still have a chance to represent the people indirectly. If not for the sake of working for the common man, these parties can work sincerely to be able to win votes in the next election. The pre-election mahagathbandhan can take shape now with a different objective – not for winning elections, but for working for the very people whom they were expecting to get votes from. Having said this, we all know the reality and possibility of this happening any time soon.

Coming back to the original question that I started with – is no or weak opposition good or bad for us? As stated earlier, it is a mixed bag. It is good because now the government can be held accountable for its decisions. It cannot blame the opposition for stalling its decisions. With a two-third majority in the Lok Sabha, the government can function without much drama from the opposition. The NDA has the numbers, if it wants to take any decisions. Dear government, it’s time for fulfilling your electoral promises. Should we start with black money, or should we start with women safety, or terrorism, or unemployment, or agri-distress? Take your pick, and please act.

The flip side to majority with the ruling party is that it can flex its muscles and take one-sided decisions. For example, the re-naming of some roads and markets. First of all, it is too trivial a matter when compared to the bigger issues facing the country that should have been given priority. Secondly, even if the government wants to re-name them, the opposition parties should come together and help them choose neutral names like those of rivers, or flowers, or even numbers instead of using names that can help advance their respective political agendas. The point I am driving at is that the opposition still has the powers to hold the government accountable, if it really wants to act. In spite of not having the numbers, it can mobilise public opinion through other channels like the traditional media or the social media. Things may not be that simple, but still not impossible.

At the end, I would like to tell the common man to not lose heart. You have shown faith in the NDA in large numbers. It is time for them to act. If they do not, the opposition parties can unite and help. And, if even the opposition parties fail to act, the power of the common man cannot be undermined. Remember Anna Hazare and his crusade against corruption? Remember how one man brought the government down to its knees? Opposition can take many forms in a democratic setup. Numbers or no numbers, it will always remain strong for those willing to act. Are you ready to do your bit?

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About the Author: Shobhika Puri

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