Indian Democracy, and it’s never ending quest for constructive Opposition

MBC June Screened- In Blog -6 by Akshay Pathania

Nelson Mandela once said “ There is always a danger that, when there is no opposition, the governing party can become too arrogant, too confident of itself.” 

This saying has immense relevance for India’s current political situation, or if more appropriately said “Crisis”. For a healthy parliamentary democracy it is always considered essential that there should be a strong opposition, which should always be in a position to saddle itself in authority. But, in India the position has been quite different. For quite some time it was believed that opposition’s role is only negative but with passage of time it is appreciated all over, that it has a positive role to play in National Politics. 

Hence, one of the biggest parliamentary achievements is that the role of Opposition has been formally recognized and given a due Place in the Parliamentary system. 

Current position of Opposition: 

In the 2019 General Elections, BJP came out as the single largest party, winning over 300+ seats alone and successfully continued its winning streak. After getting such a strong mandate they are capable of taking strong decisions which might have been difficult for a Minority Government but the growing popularity of One single party had already created uneasiness among some of the political experts they believed that such a strong Government is very susceptible to become a victim of kitchen cabinet where just a bunch of people take all major decision without proper consulting the cabinet. 

2 Even after the continuous criticism by the intelligentsia on issues like Demonization , Inefficient implementation of the much awaited Goods and Services Tax, the Governing party had successfully diverted the attention of masses to other less important populist issues. Opposition should have acted as the inhibitor but they just couldn’t. Their strength and unity was too low to act as a pressure group in Parliament. Such tasks become even more difficult when the so-called 4th pillar of our Democracy a.k.a Media was busy singing choruses composed by the ruling regime. At times, the voice of the Opposition was so incoherent that it felt as if the Governing party was on a “Blitzkrieg” to achieve their agendas. As an outcome, the governing party escaped from it’s accountability and felt even more empowered to take such decisions in future as well. 

Such phenomenon in Indian politics are not new: 

India saw a 21 month period of “The National Emergency” under the Prime-Ministership of Indira Gandhi. It is a period, well-known for its tyranny. Although the decision to impose an emergency was proposed by Indira Gandhi, it had to be ratified by the cabinet and the Parliament. A strong opposition in Parliament at that time would not have let that happen. 

Times when a strong opposition brought dismay : 

One must not forget the time when Vajpayee’s government lasted just 13 months until when the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) under Jayalalithaa withdrew its support. The government lost the ensuing vote of confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by a single vote on 17 April 1999. This is one such example where a strong opposition took undue advantage of the weak situation of the Governing party in the Parliament. 

Moreover, the Opposition has often made forced adjournments, followed 

by chaos, a matter of routine and the only instrument to attract attention 

and show resentment against policies. 

3 In 2008 and 2013, entire Sessions were washed out due to disruptions. The Winter Session of 2017 was the “least productive” sessions for both Houses 

in the past 15 years with the issue of demonetization leading to repeated 


So, what is the solution to this dilemma ? 

Do we need to have a strong opposition or not ? 

The solution of such a problem lies within the basic principles of democracy highlighted by Abraham Lincoln i.e. “ Democracy is, of the people, for the people, and by the People”. We are the solution. Let us never forget that the government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not the Prime-Minister and his cabinet or the government officials, but the voters of this country. We people must realize that “ Balance of Power “ is necessary and Undue power to anyone, whether it be the Governing party or the opposition party, both are dangerous. Our responsibility just doesn’t end with voting, we have to become the active participant even afterwards. 

The failure of opposition inside the Parliament has often forced people to become the ultimate catalyst. Such a phenomenon, nowadays is quite common. The intellectual class is more vocal and expressive than ever. People are making their own little efforts to change the course of such authoritarian decision making. 

Such voices are the essence of a Democracy and should not be taken as a challenge to someone’s authority. For the Government to view opposition as dangerous is to misunderstand the basic concept of democracy, and to oppress the opposition is to assault the very foundation of it. 

Way forward: 

4 What differentiate Democracy from other forms of Government is the “Balance of Power ” , no one entity is made strong enough to turn authoritarian. Democracy has its own checks and balances to work things out. One such check is the importance attached to Opposition parties. It is the duty of the opposition to bring out constructive criticism during the process of decision making and further to refrain themselves from disrupting the functioning of the house. In case they lack the strength inside the Parliament, it is their responsibility to create a narrative, and to reach out to the masses for help. They need to realize that the ultimate power lies in the hands of masses. On the other hand, masses must also understand their importance in the process and must act accordingly. 

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