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Will numerically strong opposition in Lok Sabha strengthen democracy?

By Prem Singh* 

After the first phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections, which were conducted in seven phases, it was already indicated that a large part of the country's population had decided to contest the elections against the present government. A large number of unemployed youth and the already agitating farmers played a major role in this act of protest. 
On one hand, this phenomenon encouraged the opposition in the next phases of elections, on the other, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started using the weapon of Hindu majoritarianism against the minority Muslims to the extreme. He felt that he was about to fall from the throne of the "Bhagyavidhata” (destiny maker) of the New India, so he even declared himself a "divine being" to save his throne.
If the opposition alliance had been formed timely with proper understanding at the all-India level, then there would not have been so much variation in the election results of different states; and the BJP's seats could have been much less.
Whatever, the election results have come in favour of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The main party of NDA, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won 240 and the entire NDA has won 293 Lok Sabha seats, which is 21 seats more than the simple majority mark of 272. 
The coalition dharma demands that those who fought the elections together should form the government together. It should be hoped that the new government led by the BJP will understand the civic message of the elections and will ensure the restoration of constitutional values/provisions, democratic institutions, civil rights and social-moral norms. 
Needless to say, all these things have been deeply damaged, especially in the last 10 years of the so-called Modi-era. The parties joining the NDA have a special responsibility in this direction. 
This is also an opportunity for the BJP to re-establish itself as a democratic political party. If the new government does not stop the process of violation of the Constitution, democracy and civil rights, then midterm elections may happen. 
In such a situation, the NDA parties including the BJP may have to face even stronger resistance from the public. But for this it is necessary that the opposition plays its role with full responsibility and seriousness. That too from now on. 
The opposition’s INDIA block has won 235 Lok Sabha seats, of which the main party Indian National Congress (INC) has 99 seats. The presence of a numerically strong opposition in the new Lok Sabha after two terms is a good sign for the strengthening of democracy.
One thing to note again is that there has been a consensus among the country's political and intellectual class for the last three decades regarding neo-liberal policies. A large world of magical claims -- increasing the economic growth rate, making India a third economic power in the world, and creating thousands and millions of Ambanis and Adanis -- has been manufactured in the country by the adherents of neoliberalism. 
In this magic world, which is called Shining India, New India, Viksit Bharat etc., there is an unmeasurable economic inequality, on one hand, and extreme poverty, inflation, malnutrition, unemployment, exploitation of unskilled/skilled labour, on the other. 
The hard fact, which has to be remembered, is that this has to continue in the society in the same way even after the election results. Privatisation is inseparable from neoliberalism. The opposition should at least clarify to what extent and in what form it is in favour of privatisation; and in which sectors. 
Only then will it be able to properly review the government's privatization related bills/moves and oppose them if necessary. It would require proper coordination, discipline and mutual trust among parties and leaders of the INDIA block.
RSS and its supporting intellectuals consider trivialization of knowledge, science, art, education etc. as sign of being Vishwaguru
In this election, a large part of the country's population has handed over the responsibility of its interests to the opposition instead of the ruling party. The opposition should maintain pressure on the new government to implement the schemes promised to the public in its election campaign, even if it is under neo-liberal policies. 
There should be a continuous effort to raise and resolve the issues/problems of farmers, organised/unorganised sector workers, artisans, small businessmen, public sector employees, students etc. in Parliament. Especially the demands of farmers, which the opposition including the Congress has promised to fulfil, should be legally accepted by the new government.
Pressure should also be put on the government to cancel the Agniveer scheme for recruitment in the armed forces. Defence Minister in the outgoing government Rajnath Singh has already said that this scheme will be reviewed. Many civil society activists have been in jail for years without hearing and bail under UAPA. It is the responsibility of the strong opposition to ensure that they get immediate justice.
In the last two terms, Prime Minister Modi has openly used religion as a weapon of politics and has caused long-term damage to the Constitution and the society. The opposition should not only avoid any kind of communal behaviour, but should also make serious efforts to repair the damage that has been done on this account. 
The caste system is deeply rooted in the structure of Indian society. Therefore, all castes should be counted. This work has been done to some extent in the past as well. But raising caste consciousness, instead of modern civic consciousness based on the Constitution, in order to garner votes falls in the category of communal politics.
Even though the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its supporting intellectuals consider the trivialization of knowledge, science, literature, art, education, language etc. as a sign of being “Vishwaguru” (teacher of world), the process of cultural decadence in the country has accelerated significantly in the last ten years. 
I am not clear about whether neoliberalism necessarily brings cultural decadence with it. But the obscene kind of neoliberalism prevailing in India seems to have a direct connection with the cultural decadence which India has been witnessing for the last three decades of neoliberal era. 
The message of this election result for the country's eminent scholars, scientists, intellectuals, artists and sincere citizens would be that they should investigate the problem of cultural decadence and take appropriate measures to stop it.
 --
*Associated with the socialist movement,  former teacher of Delhi University and  fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

Comments

Vikthor said…
A numerically strong opposition is a recipe for a vibrant democracy. As the World's largest democracy, no other country deserves a very vibrant opposition than India. It'll give the government in power a stronger resolve to provide quality governance

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