Albert Einstein once said on the opposition, “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.” I often wonder, is Indian democracy witnessing the same challenge? Are we witnessing the rise of mediocre opposition? Are we evolved enough to take the role of opposition with all honesty, integrity and might? Are we still evolving and classify in the category – Democracy in Making; and struggling to manage the changes? I would not like to define the state of Indian democracy and role of opposition, instead will talk of the current state of the Indian democracy and opposition.
We all will agree that a healthy democracy is a function of the coexistence of strong ruling party and equally strong opposition party. A weak opposition party and a strong ruling party is not a healthy sign for any democracy. In fact, in the long run it is always a disaster. We have witnessed it in the past when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister and opposition was struggling for a unique voice and unity. In seventies, also we had many strong opposition leaders with mass following, leaders who were true challengers, leaders who had strong voice, leaders who in their own way wanted to change the future of India, leaders capable of ruling India, but not one who were capable enough to lead the pack of those leaders. One thing is very clear from the learnings of the seventies that strong opposition doesn’t only mean numbers, a strong opposition party or a group should act like a watchdog. They should be in position to command the respect of people and the party in power. They should be in position to argument well with positive disagreement.
We all know that India has strong government in the centre and we need equally strong opposition for a balanced growth. If we fail to nurture the strong opposition we would sooner or later head towards the era of dictatorship. I hope no one would like to see that happening. The desire of strong opposition is just not my views or wish of millions of the politically active Indians but the National General Secretary of BJP Ram Madhav also believes in the same. The beauty of Indian democracy is such that even ruling party demands a strong opposition.
Unfortunately, there is no strong opposition at centre. There is no single party or an alliance which can counter the moves of the ruling party as a cohesive unit with an articulated narrative. We need an alliance of opposition parties with minimum common agenda. I am not sure if the political parties in the opposition, who are talking of an alliance of likeminded opposition parties, have understood the importance of the common goal and agenda or still talking of the same for their opportunistic gains. Even Ram Madhav, argues that for any Mahagathbandhan to succeed or to be taken seriously, need to have a coherent narrative. The irony of the Indian democracy is that there is no united opposition and the parties who are projecting themselves as the united force lacks coherent narrative. The cohesive narrative is missing as each party of the so-called united opposition has their own hidden agenda; they don’t have any defined plan or ideology; and the opposition don’t even have a defined strong leader.
If we have to go by the basic logic, Indian National Congress as the largest national party with roughly 20 percent vote share should be the face of the opposition. The leaders of Indian National Congress should start working on uniting the opposition. Even if, we say that it is not always necessary that someone from the Indian National Congress should be the face of the opposition as it is the largest and strongest party in opposition. The role of the Indian National Congress in uniting the opposition can’t be ruled out and the face of the opposition would always need blessings of the Indian National Congress.
We all are testimony to the fact that the dynamics of Indian politics is changing at unprecedented pace and I will not be surprised if one of the strong and capable leaders of a regional party with national ambition emerges as the face of opposition at center. The strong leadership of parties like Samajwadi Party, Biju Janata Dal, Telangana RashtraSamithi, Indian National Lok Dal, Bahujan Samajwadi Party, AamAadmi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress can emerge as the option to be the face of the opposition. But it also requires leadership of these parties to have focus to achieve the desired position and most importantly the blessings of the grand old party Indian National Congress. As of now, in absence of any such alternative, Indian National Congress becomes the defacto option of opposition party and someone from the party can be the face of the opposition. The task of projecting a capable leader or a face of united opposition, even, for Indian National Congress is not an easy play.
The age-old party Indian National Congress needs to start from scratch. It has to be a new beginning; this new beginning has to be beyond the legacy of the Indian National Congress; this beginning has to be the reinvention of the party with fresh perspective; this beginning can be independent of the tall and strong leadership of past. The new age leaders of Indian National Congress would need a new approach, new leadership, new ideology, and focus on the contemporary agenda. Most of the political analysts believe that if congress needs to emerge as the party of opposition, it needs to rework on the leadership, ideology, and reposition the brand congress from scratch.
It is important for Indian National Congress to reinvent the party as it is fast losing the political ground, and voters confidence. Its ironical that the largest and the oldest political party of India – Indian NationalCongress has been reduced to the politics of vote bank.The decline of the congress is witnessed from the results of recent assembly elections, and most of the local body elections results have shown that the Indian National Congress has been virtually decimated by the BJP. The decline of congress is apparent from the result of the recent Uttar Pradesh Assembly election where, Indian National Congress managed to win seven seats, which is even lower than BJP ally Apna Dal’s which won nine seats. This is absolutely not a healthy sign for the Indian democracy. Congress Mukt Bharat can be a good political slogan for the BJP but is not a healthy sign for the Indian democracy.
In last three years, we have also witnessed the decline of Indian National Congress and many other regional parties across India. During the same time, we have also witnessed the rise in the vote share of BJP. In last three years, we have also witnessed rise in the vote share of BJP in all the states where it has no presence, or limited presence. The declining vote share of the regional parties and losing grip of congress across India has created a scenario where we are witnessing a weak opposition. It will not be wrong to say that we are back to the era of spineless opposition of 1970s. The only difference is this time is that the opposition is congress and other regional parties.
In my views, the gradual decimation of Indian National Congress from Indian politics is bad news for India and the idea of Indian democracy. Congress needs to focus on the constructive opposition and argue around issues which are non-religious, beyond caste and regionalism, issues that talks of development, corruption, women security, terrorism, intolerance, riots, etc. I believe that this is the time for the opposition to unite and restructure. It is time to re-work on the ideology, and reposition themselves as a one cohesive unit.