India’s Politics Lack in 2020: A Responsible Opposition
It has been 73 years since India has been an Independent country. In these 73 years, India has seen 17 Lok Sabha Elections and 17 leaders that have made this what it is today. Along with the 17 successive governments another institution that has kept India going, is the Opposition, which has time and again contributed constructively to the policymaking process of the government.
The role of the Opposition in the Parliament is to question the government during lawmaking or when the government proposes an ordinance. The role of the Opposition also includes that of a watchdog, they ensure that the government doesn’t pass any bills arbitrarily and impose its hegemony. The opposition, in other words, keeps a scope of discussion, debate, and alteration in the bills and the future of the country.
India has witnessed some spectacular Opposition leaders apart from the head of the governments. These Include LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, and Shanta Kumar to name a few. The role of the Opposition leader is to lead the opposition parties and put forth relevant apprehensions against the proposed policy by the government. The Opposition leader becomes the face and the voice of the people of the country. India has adopted the Parliamentary system of Government from Great Britain, but the efficiency and effectiveness of this system stand at crossroads today with a lack of opposition leaders.
After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, one aspect that became very apparent was the lack of vision and power of the Indian National Congress and the increasing popularity of the Bharatiya Janta Party. Both of these are two of the most popular parties amongst the 8 national parties that have become the key players in Indian politics. Both these parties have sat on the Prime Ministerial Office and in the Opposition. But when it comes to offering strong debates and arguments as Opposition, a significant notation has been made.
The Indian National Congress (INC) has won the general election 11 times in the electoral history of India. Since the Indian National Congress has won more than their counterpart, they have a better experience at governing the country. The INC has not been very fluent in the tactics of becoming a revolutionary Opposition party in the Parliament. The INC lacks experience of being an effective opposition in the Parliament which has become very evident in recent times. However, Congress seems to be grappling with the issues of becoming a strong opposition even to this date.
On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been on the winning side about 7 times since Independence. This existing era can be called to be the golden period of the Bharatiya Janta Party as this is for the first time that BJP has successively won twice. Since the frequency of a BJP government in the house has been low in the past, the BJP has been a diligent Opposition Party. BJP has more experience in questioning the government and holding it accountable, it proved itself to be an efficient and smart opposition. The BJP has now tasted the success of winning twice, hence they have aced the art to govern.
In the general elections of 2019, BJP won twice with a swooping number of 303 seats and signaled the weakening power of the Congress which secured only 52 seats. Thus, began the era of weakened Opposition of India. The General Election of 2019 resulted in the absence of an Opposition leader. Rahul Gandhi, the then Party President resigned in the angst of losing twice. This further weakened the stance of Congress in assuming a role as the opposition to the government.
With amending the Constitution to the approval of various controversial bills, the opposition had not to cross-questioned the government, and if it did, it wasn’t strong enough. Directionless and aimless, the opposition has forgotten its role today. The BJP led Government has made several landmark decisions but no opposing views landed in the public sphere as a resistance.
The revocation and abrogation of Article 370, which gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir did make a huge stir in the country but much less in the Parliament. Article 370 was promised with a prospective Plebiscite was granted by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and the leader of the then INC. The Opposition did not offer any notable arguments at the matter of hand which concerned the involvement of the foundation keeper of the INC. Hence, the Amendment Bill was passed.
The central government had amended the Sedition law this year which claimed that any citizen assumed to be indulging in any anti-national activity can be booked under this law. The assumption of a person being involved in any anti-national activity without a piece of evidence is primarily liable to be charged under this law. The opposition was tight-lipped and didn’t offer any significant argument against the amendment of the sedition law. However, the revocation of the infamous sedition law was in the manifesto of the INC, but when the amendment was proposed, no hard line counter-arguments could stop its enforcement.
The INC not only lacks face to give a new direction to the historic political outfit and its cause, but it also lacks an agenda against the prevailing government. The popular Goods and Services Tax Bill (GST) was conceived by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999 but was proposed by Dr. Manmohan Singh in 2006, the BJP had shown strong resistance to the bill that it wasn’t passed. It was in 2017, GST finally made it to the constitution as the amendment of Article 368. The weak resistance of the Opposition had once more shown its inability to be at power with government or to keep it in check.
If the recent times are to be talked about, at the outbreak of novel Coronavirus, The Prime Minister had urged the country to donate to the PM Cares Fund, set up to fight against COVID-19. Several corporates, celebrities donated their share in the Fund. Additionally, the government employees were also made to make an involuntary contribution by the means of deducting a part of their salaries. However, in an astonishing move, the accountability of the PM cares Fund was pulled off by the Government. The Fund was taken off the RTI which made the government non-answerable concerning the usage of the fund.
No one in the opposition questioned this move in public or a private domain. This shows the inability of the opposition to carry out its role. In all situations, the opposition needs to be active and pose apprehensions when it comes to the issues that are not in the welfare of the citizen. But a weak opposition is a result of a lack of seats secured by a single party. Since there is no single party that has emerged as opposition, the personal interests of the parties are chiefly served.
Lack of strong opposition also makes the government arbitrary and dictatorial. India is still a democracy, but the internal politics point to the other way. A strong opposition keeps the government in check. Taking an example from the British Parliamentary System, the provision of a Shadow Cabinet keeps the government in check. The Nominal Leader or the Queen can any time demand the resignation of the actual government in case of their inability to handle the nation. The Opposition Party and the Shadow Cabinet are then asked to form the Government.
A strong opposition is the need of the hour to maintain the democracy, but that the internal politics the power of the government and to hold them responsible. However, the current circumstances are not very assuring. India lacks an opposition leader not only in the Parliament but also in the Public Domain. It is making the government even more powerful than it was previously. The country is at crossroads today, where an absence of an alternate leader has taken all the choices of the citizen to picture their nation either wise.