Indian Parliamentary Democracy in CrisisA parliamentary democracy thrives on debate and discussion. Those who are voted to power try and run the country, theoretically as per the promises they made in their manifesto before the elections but in reality as per their agenda perceived either through the conditions they encounter on assuming office or according to advice they receive from the various committees, think tanks or bureaucrats or as per the demands of the situation. Obviously, their way of running the country will differ from the way most of the other political parties, the so-called opposition, would want the country to be run. On most issues, the government would take a stand and issue either administrative fiats or make laws to ensure that work is done according to its reading of the situation. The opposition, on the other hand, would cry foul and complain that the government has read the situation wrongly and is pushing the country and its people down the path of destruction.
By Sunil Garodia
By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2016-12-18 18:49:24
Both the government and the opposition are entitled to their views and are entitled also to present their views before the people, in Parliament, if it is in session, and outside through public meetings, rallies, press conferences and other forums. This presentation of views should be civil and informed, taking the shape of debate and discussion. As the government had won a mandate to rule the country, it is entitled to put its ideas into practice. Most of the times, the government should take the opposition in confidence on crucial issues more so since in a federal structure, many of the states would be ruled by opposition parties but sometimes, when secrecy and speed is of importance, like in the surgical strikes against Pakistan and the contentious demonetization issue, the government can also act unilaterally. Similarly, since the opposition is striving to show where the government is at fault and how its ideas will either ruin the economy or create hardships for the people, it is entitled to try its utmost to prevent the government from carrying out ideas that it thinks are wrong. It can use the Parliament to vote and defeat a government proposal, it can approach the courts of law to stall a measure it thinks is unconstitutional or it can, as a last resort, take to creating awareness among the people to make them rise against the government (though an extreme form of the last could lead to anarchy).
But the opposition should not, must not, stall work in Parliament. For, there are other things that are crucial to the country apart from the differences over a particular current issue. The Parliament was designed as a chamber where law makers could debate and vote to make or unmake laws. It was also designed as the place where the opposition could register its protest in a dignified manner, to be recorded for posterity. But it was not designed to be what it has been made by our honourable parliamentarians where they would stall work and indulge in unpardonable acts that are viewed by the whole world.
Indian parliamentary democracy is descending to depths that must be paining its founding fathers immensely. At one level, it is a reflection of the kind of people that are occupying seats in the august houses and at another level, it shows how the spirit of cooperation and intellectual exchange has given way to that of acrimony and games of one-upmanship. Politicians of all parties are failing the people and the sooner they realize this, the better for future generations. It is for this reason that radical political reforms encompassing the entire gamut from funding, spending, registration of political parties, qualifications of candidates, behavior of peoples representatives inside and outside legislative houses and conduct of parties, their leaders and workers - need to be undertaken. But since all parties without exception are inflicted with viruses, who is going to conduct this surgical strike?