Skip to main content

Strong shadow cabinet can 'bring discourse back' from clouds, mangoes, Nehru

By Joe Athialy*
Why not a shadow cabinet? Tried in some parts of the country in the past, in different forms, it’s time to form a shadow cabinet at the Centre. A feature of Westminster system of government, shadow cabinet, formed by the members of the opposition party, monitor the functioning of the government, and offer an alternative program. It will shadow each member of the Cabinet.
Practised more consistently in United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, shadow cabinet is reported to function in nearly 20 countries. In India’s neighbourhood, Sri Lanka had one in 2016 by joint opposition with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as shadow Prime Minister.
In India a few states tried it in the past. In 2005 the Shiv Sena-BJP combine formed one in Maharashtra to monitor the functioning of the Vilasrao Deshmukh-led Congress government. Not much is reported about the functioning of that shadow cabinet which was headed by Narayan Rane and Gopinath Munde as his deputy. 
In 2015 the Congress party formed one in Madhya Pradesh and Aam Admi Party formed one in the same year in Goa, to monitor the BJP-led governments in both states. Similar to the earlier experiment in Maharashtra nothing is reported about the functioning of those shadow governments.
First time initiated by people’s movements and voluntary organisations, a year back Kerala formed a shadow cabinet. End of June, they are observing the first year of the shadow cabinet. 
In the past year they monitored the functioning of the Left Democratic Front and made policy recommendations to the government on sectors like finance, education, agriculture and power, the shadow minister for fisheries, Magline Philomin said. “But it’s a struggle to get the government listen to us”, she added.
Now that a new cabinet has taken oath, learning from the past experiences, it’s time that a shadow cabinet is formed at the Centre. It can draw the best minds from different opposition parties, academics and civil society and form one to not only monitor the functioning of the government and engage deeply in the Parliamentary debates, but also suggest progressive policies and programmes.
One of the ways in which to hold the government accountable for its actions and not let them walk away changing goal posts and take refuge in ‘clouds’, ‘mangoes’ and ‘Nehru’ is to engage deeply on its performance and only a strong shadow cabinet can make sure to bring the discourse back on track.
Parliament sittings have declined over the years, leaving the governments take the easy route of ordinances, and in some cases money bills (as in the case of changes in Aadhaar Act or Electoral Bonds by the previous Modi government) and not face difficult questions from opposition.
An effective shadow cabinet could throw light on both the content and processes of such attempts both inside and outside the Parliament in an organised and engaged way, rather than isolated and scattered responses by political parties and others.
A complex and diverse country as India, it is likely that the ruling regime could focus on some issues, while some other burning issues could miss their attention, or conveniently ignored. The farm distress which peaked during the last government, and which was brought to the fore by Left parties is an example of that.
Apart from monitoring the functioning of the government, the role of a shadow cabinet could also be to bring such issues to the national stage, in a more thought through and organised fashion.
The issues brought together by a shadow cabinet could influence the media in a positive way. It should stand as a stark contrast to the studio-based journalism of electronic media, where they put a bunch of people together who shout at each other the same time.
Most of the issues covered in such debates lack in-depth research, and the participants are selected not on the basis of subject expertise. A shadow cabinet will not immediately change how this media acts now. But the topics that they bring to the fore, and the insights and information that they put together on each issues should influence the character as well as the quality of debates in the media.
It’s easy to mock at today’s opposition, which is all dissipated, bruised and in shatters. That, if the combined opposition could not pose a challenge to Modi’s march to power a second term, how can they pose one now, with a brute majority in Lok Sabha now and a likely majority in 2021 in Rajya Sabha?
But a real democracy cannot function without an opposition. Defaming, delegitimizing and criminalising opposition, including ones outside of political parties but critical of the government, is a recipe for the death of democracy and rise of authoritarianism.
---
*With Financial Accountability Network India, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Modi, Shah 'forget': Gandhi’s first Satyagraha was against citizenship law of South Africa

By Nachiketa Desai*
Hindu fanatic Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi once on January 30, 1948 but his followers raising the war cry of ‘Jai Sriram’ are killing the Mahatma every day. In his home state of Gujarat, Gandhiji was killed a thousand times in 2002 when over 2,000 Muslims were butchered, their women raped, homes and shops plundered and set on fire and even unborn babies ripped out of the wombs of their mothers.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Big 'danger' of NPR: A babu can tag anyone as doubtful citizen, Jharkhand meet told

' By Our Representative
People in large numbers from across Jharkhand gathered at the Raj Bhawan in Ranchi to demand that the Hemant Soren government reject National Population Register (NPR) and stop all NPR-related activities. The people’s organisations which participated in the dharna under the banner of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JMM) resolved to intensify their struggle, insisting, NPR is not a Hindu-Muslim issue but is essentially anti-poor.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Haridwar Swamis lead Khudai Khidmatgar peace march in Delhi 'riot affected' areas

By Our Representative
A Khudai Kidmatgar team, which visited the riot-affected regions along with Swami Shivanand Saraswati and Swami Punyanand, has insisted that India's true heritage is the lesson of ‘vasudhaiv kutumbakam', and it is the responsibility of all to carry froward this legacy. Originally founded by Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan in 1930, also known as Frontier Gandhi, Khudai Khidmatgar is claimed to have been revived by young Gandhian activist Faisal Khan in 2011.