25 August 2019 08:24 PM

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RASHMI OBEROI | 27 MAY, 2019

We Need A Strong Opposition… Period!

Get rid of the old fogies


NEW DELHI: For a healthy democracy, a healthy opposition is as important as a strong government. It helps keep the regime in power under control for one. It also prevents it from developing arrogant and autocratic deviations from the path of progress and democracy by questioning such steps, assessing their policies objectively and also giving important inputs.

India needs a strong leader, not a messiah. At present, this country is suffering from a most non-synced and unprepared opposition. Only boycotting Parliament or hitting the streets in protest is not sufficient. They need to wake up collectively, put their thoughts in order and prepare an action plan. They need to reach out to the masses: An opposition of the people, by the people, for the people.

There is increasing pressure from younger citizens and urban middle classes for accountable and transparent governance and an alternative politics. This clamour from the youth and urbanites is a cry for real democracy — a participatory and equitable dispensation with a strong human rights ethos — and should provide the foundation for the consolidation of democracy on the continent.

However, democratic gains are fragile and can get quickly reversed. The lesson is that effective democracy must be constitutionally consolidated and underpinned by a practice in which democratic culture takes root.

The first step for our opposition is to get rid of the old fogies and change the equation. The younger lot need to move up the ladder – change the face of the leaders and if that doesn’t happen – they need to break away and start a new party. There is a lot of potential in the youngsters of the Congress party who are pushed down and not allowed to shine.

The opposition needs to chalk out a definite framework of action to pursue the programmes and policies for which they stand. However, there are many parties which do not have any coherent programme or policy to fall back upon. Their purpose is simply to aspire to come to power by hook or crook.

The opposition in India plays an important role in providing practical criticism of the ruling party. It is also consulted when important appointments are made. Therefore, it is important for the opposition to have a leader who can represent the interests of the non-dominant parties in these roles. The absence of an opposition leader will weaken India as the opposition will not be able to put up a unified front against the ruling party.

The role of opposition party is as important as that of the ruling party. They ensure that the acts of the ruling party are not detrimental to the interest of general public or nation at large. The opposition ensures that the ruling political parties have a definite programme and policy to offer to the people and who can show a progressive path by action and not just by propaganda.

The role of the opposition party is not to oppose every decision of the ruling party. Rather, it is the duty of the opposition party to support the ruling party for the acts that are in the interest of the nation. Political parties must aspire to play a constructive role rather than a detrimental one.

The flaws of the election process need to be removed – including the power of money that causes the voter to swing sides in the quest for money. Reams have been written about the failures of the opposition parties. Far from holding the government to account, they have either been dormant or busy fighting for survival.

Some have argued that the Indian polity has reverted to a state it has witnessed before — that of single-party dominance, with the BJP taking the place of the Congress. While this is true in a formal sense, there is a big difference in substantive terms, one that could seal the fate of Indian democracy as we have known it.

If the Opposition has floundered so far, it is because it has tried, without much conviction, to challenge the BJP on its narrative home ground. Not surprisingly, its attempts have failed to strike a chord. Debating nationalism ends up giving more oxygen to chauvinism.

It is said that one must learn from the strength of adversaries. The opposition needs to understand the sentiments and expectations of regional partners’ core voters. Regional parties have a greater ability to transfer votes and are in the best position to capitalise on identity politics. National parties cannot understand local sentiments and issues fully and also find it difficult to mediate between warring factions of their state units.

The national parties also find it difficult to correctly gauge the popularity levels of factions competing against each other within the party. For this, the high command has to rely on their close confidantes. Thus, more or less, the reliance is on luck to pick the right coalition partner or person. National parties and regional parties have their own strength and shortcomings. It is of importance that these aspects are identified and acknowledged, to forge a successful coalition.

It is high time that the opposition works smartly in stitching an alliance. It must engage in building a blue-print committed to subaltern empowerment, building a progressive narrative of all-round development and prosperity to represent itself as a vibrant and viable political alternative to the nation.

Opposition unity needs to be chalked out setting aside individual aspirations and egos. One must not forget that to win elections, merely social arithmetic is not enough; proper chemistry is required to defeat authoritarianism that poses a threat to the constitution and social harmony.

India is in desperate need of a strong opposition.

The Congress needs to strengthen its ground base without relying on the mighty Gandhis. Its leaders need a new approach. They have to leave behind the old aristocratic attitude and approach of political hierarchy and reach people and listen to them, stand with them and provide solutions to their basic problems.
 

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