Herald: Weakened opposition a threat to democracy

Weakened opposition a threat to democracy

09 Jun 2019 05:08am IST
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09 Jun 2019 05:08am IST

In Telangana 12 of 18 Congress MLAs have opted to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. In West Bengal three Trinamul Congress MLAs have quit the party to join BJP.

In Maharashtra senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil quit, and ten more are expected to quit and go over to the other side. In Goa the Congress has said it does not rule out the possibility of MLAs quitting the party and joining the BJP. This appears to be a national phenomenon, as the above examples prove that after the victory that the BJP managed in the Lok Sabha elections, a number of politicans are gravitating towards the party, some of them even willing to give up the seats and get re-elected.

Leaning towards the party that has the majority and changing sides to this party is not healthy for a democracy. A strong opposition is as important as a strong government, at times, a reliable and steadfast opposition is more essential, especially when the party in power has a huge majority, so as to keep a check on the government and its policies. India follows the Westminster model of Parliament, but there is one aspect of that which is not a practice here. In Britain, the opposition appoints a shadow cabinet of its MPs, who follow the minister’s work closely and challenge the policies of the government more appropriately. Essentially, the opposition in Britain has a kind of alternative government, whose members are ready to take on the government in a better capacity, and when elected to power, are already abreast of the tasks and challenges facing them.

A strong opposition is required to hold the government accountable, question it and be in position to debate in the House with sound arguments. What is required is constructive criticism and not blind opposition. The opposition party is not supposed to oppose every government decision without valid reasons. It has to do its homework and come prepared to debate legislation, showing the electorate that is too has the capacity to govern. But that is not happening currently, neither at the Centre nor in Goa. The limitations of the opposition have been exploited by the government that has returned at the Centre with a bigger majority, and in the State to break up the party.

The changing of sides by politicians, merely because of the lure of power, exposes the lack of ideology and principles in those who contest on a party ticket, but abandon it at the first hint of weakness. The majority that the BJP has obtained in the Lok Sabha has discredited the other main national party the Congress, leading to the first signs of a possible exodus from the latter, and even other regional parties. This does not abide well for a democracy, and definitely not for the world’s largest democracy. The opposition is an essential part of a democratic set up, and has to function in a manner expected of it. The politicians in an opposition party cannot forget that one day their party may be elected to govern the State.

The Congress State president in Goa has admitted that the breaking up of the non-BJP parties is dangerous for democracy, as it will destroy the opposition. Weak it already is, its destruction will deal democracy a big blow. What Congress has to introspect on, is the choice of candidates, as it is these who are elected with no strong roots to the party ideology that are the first to quit. If the politician stands firm then there can be no poaching by other parties. Congress has to change the manner in which it selects its candidates. ‘Winnability’ is a factor that should not be given much weight. Loyalty should do the trick.

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