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A strong(er) Opposition is good for India

A strong(er) Opposition is good for India

Achieving a nationwide political ideological consensus now necessitates pragmatic collaborative federalism.

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Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 06:04 IST
Last Updated : 07 June 2024, 06:04 IST
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While on the election campaign trail, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned that he misses having a strong Opposition. The election results have made this a reality, though perhaps not in the way his party had hoped. Voters have voted in a larger Opposition.

 In a democracy, the Opposition isn't just a check on power; it's the spotlight that keeps governance in focus. Therefore, a strong and governance-focused Opposition is essential for the health and vitality of a democratic system, ensuring that the people’s interests remain at the forefront of governance. An engaged Opposition can foster a culture of parliamentary debate and deliberation by providing a platform for dissenting voices and alternative viewpoints, enriching the democratic process with diverse perspectives and innovative policy ideas.

 A strong parliamentary Opposition can catalyse a healthier democratic ecosystem by providing a robust check on the ruling party’s decisions and power. With greater scrutiny and accountability, the Opposition can ensure that governance remains transparent, responsive, and aligned with the people’s interests. It fosters constructive debate, encouraging diverse perspectives, and innovative solutions to complex challenges.

 A stronger Opposition is also needed for India's pluralistic society as it ensures the representation and protection of diverse voices and interests. In a country as culturally, ethnically, linguistically, economically, and socio-developmentally diverse as India, a robust Opposition acts as a vital counterbalance to prevent the dominance of any single ideology or group. Moreover, a vibrant Opposition encourages dialogue and compromise, facilitating consensus-building on issues that affect different segments of society.

 The larger question the voters would now keenly analyse is if the Opposition can be all these, and more. Can it demonstrate maturity, and responsibility, and prioritise national interests over political manoeuvring? Furthermore, can it effectively manage its political ambitions within the coalition and handle sensitive matters of its ideological gaps with restraint? Ideally, this means that the Opposition should avoid attempting to break away factions to topple a government. However, those familiar with Indian politics might view this as wishful thinking.

 After 10 years of absolute majority rule, the coalition era has returned to Indian politics. Can the Opposition, with its wide set of representation across party and state lines, offer governance-focused dialogue rather than opposing everything merely for the sake of being the formal Opposition? This time around, Parliament will see conversations across party lines, and debate key legislation to be made into law.

 This national election underscores the significance of regional parties in national politics. The results highlight that regional parties and their state-level agendas significantly impact the national elections. Therefore, achieving a nationwide political ideological consensus now necessitates pragmatic collaborative federalism.

 The forthcoming assembly polls could mark a new tone in Indian politics. With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) holding roughly one-third of India's 4,000-plus assembly seats and having previously faced defeats to regional parties, the upcoming contests in five states over the next 14 months promise to be fiercely contested.

A significant worry is whether this election's voting patterns will drive all parties to fully embrace caste-based politics, thereby bringing it into the mainstream narrative. This raises the question: will this shift push Indian society deeper into division, or can it steer us away from such fractures and focus on inclusive development?

 This has implications for the pillars of democracy. The newly emerging political landscape, characterised by coalition politics and the resurgence of Opposition influence, raises pertinent questions about the potential impact on other pillars of democracy, particularly the media and judiciary. Will the need for consensus-building and negotiation in coalition governments foster a renewed sense of rigour and governance within these institutions? Will they demonstrate their independence and wisdom?

 A stronger Opposition could bring about a significant shift in this dynamic. By actively engaging with the media and promoting its perspective on key issues, the Opposition can ensure that a multitude of voices are represented, fostering a more dynamic and inclusive public discourse. Hopefully, the mainstream media will also move to bring diverse stakeholder views.

 Additionally, a strong Opposition can act as a watchdog, holding the media accountable for biased reporting or propaganda. Their scrutiny and criticism help uphold journalistic integrity and balance, thereby reinforcing the democratic principles of transparency and accountability within society.

 At last, a debate is put to rest — that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) operate efficiently, ensuring the integrity of democracy in India. Now, the question arises: can a responsible Opposition elevate democratic values to the forefront of the journey towards a Viksit Bharat?

(Srinath Sridharan is a policy researcher and corporate adviser. X: @ssmumbai.)


Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.

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