“Ruling party ka kaam hota hai law banana,
aur opposition ka kaam hota hai monitoring karna.”
(The ruling party is responsible for making and maintaining the law, but it is the opposition’s job to keep this in check by monitoring them)
-Sushma Swaraj during a speech at Delhi University in 2013
Although what she said is well known by everyone, but I want to repeat that without a strong opposition, a democracy dies. It took 60 years for the BJP to come to this position. Before they were in power, no one ever said that the opposition was not active, rather they would say that the opposition was more active than required.
While in the functioning of the legislature, we see how all responsibility goes to the opposition for disrupting the functioning of the parliament which delays due process, but this is how democracy works, where in reality, the opposition puts their effort into criticizing the government. A real bargaining of power takes place, which mostly results in the benefit of the nation.
It is simply like two-three telecom sectors competing with each other and in this competition, the beneficiaries are rhe costumers. Similarly, this ruler-opposition tussle benefits people and country (mostly). On this ground, the post of the leader of opposition was created through the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. This year also, after the general elections, the Congress was chosen as an opposition, but what’s the use of this act in the presence of a weak opposition?
Since the elections, the Triple Talaq Bill, the RTI amendment, the UAPA amendment, Reorganization of States Bill, etc. were presented but the opposition hardly played a role! Although, the ruling government has a majority in the parliament, and it may seem like the opposition under our constitutional set up hardly matters, but this position was also held by the BJP and they did an admirable job.
While sections 193,184 and 156 of the Act provided different provision for discussion, the BJP as opposition always demanded bills should be discussed under 184 because under this, voting and discussion takes place. For example. during the Lokpal debate in 2011, the BJP pressurized the speaker to take discussion under rule 184.
This is how the political system runs, but now, the opposition is unfortunately unable to play any decisive role.
Now the question arises: despite such a historical and cultural background, as well as with the economy slowing down, poor performance of the farming sector, unemployment, democratic crackdown, institutional crises, human rights violations, etc. why is the Congress unable to play any role in monitoring the ruling government and strengthening the democracy?
1) As I have already mentioned, our constitutional set up allows ample space on the hand of the ruling party. Now, arranging 272 votes (majority) is no more big a deal, in which the opposition has no say.
2) The Congress does not appeal to the masses as they lack a ground in the people, although Rahul Gandhi has tried his part.
3) The Congress’ own internal crisis. Although Sonia Gandhi has been nominated as the new chairman, it is only temporary.
4) Recently, Rahul Gandhi was stopped at the airport and not allowed to enter in Jammu and Kashmir. A few months ago, Priyanka Gandhi was stopped by the Uttar Pradesh police on her way to meet a family who were affected by the Sonbhadra killings.
Recently, the BJP, without winning a single seat in the Assembly polls, has become the main opposition party in Sikkim. The BJP’s Ram Madhav said, “we will play the role of a constructive opposition.”
Keeping aside all the economic, political, social issues associated with the BJP, I believe that the BJP has been very responsible toward their position. They are the real opposition when in the position and take on the role of a ruler equally well.