Will ruling party & Opposition unite or confront in LS?

By Dr Satish Misra. Dated: 6/19/2019 1:31:31 PM

In the wake of the massive victory of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), first session of the newly elected 17th Lok Sabha, beginning on June 17 and ending on July 26, is going to be a test of sorts for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as how he is going to treat the opposition which is depleted in numbers and reduced in strength.
While the session will begin with protem speaker presiding over the oath taking of the newly elected MPs of the popular house, over a monthlong session of parliament is going to witness many significant developments including the election of the speaker and deputy speaker.
On the eve of the commencement of the parliamentary session, the Prime Minister had convened an all-party meeting to seek cooperation and support of the opposition for passing of some of the key bills in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling coalition still lacks a majority. Fate of some bills like that of the bill against the 'Triple Talaq' may continue to hang in balance due to lack of support from the opposition.
"We had a fruitful all-party meeting today, the first one after the election results and before the start of the Monsoon session. Thankful to the leaders for their valuable suggestions. We all agreed on the smooth running of Parliament so that we can fulfill people's aspirations", Modi tweeted after the meeting.
In the same spirit, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad responded saying that bills which are in the interest of the people will not be opposed.
Nice sounding words reflecting traditional respect for each other but the real test of the intent of the Modi government towards the opposition would be known either during the interactions between the two sides or on the floor of the two houses of Parliament.
In its first term, the Modi government's handling of the opposition was a display of arrogance. Political rivals were treated with utter disdain. In selection of the speaker by the ruling party, it will be clear as how the Prime Minister and his government are going to treat the opposition because it is very critical to the functioning of democracy in the country.
Installing Sumitra Mahajan as the speaker of the 16th Lok Sabha, Modi has chosen someone whose treatment the opposition left a bad taste in mouth. She was partisan and always held the opposition guilty while she spared the treasury benches even for its grave faults. Instead of being non-partisan, her several rulings and decisions betrayed her sympathies and tilt towards the BJP.
The opposition too had faulted on many counts and even now it appears to be in disarray. All opposition parties are yet to emerge of the shock that they received when the Lok Sabha election results came out. Many of the seasoned leaders in the opposition ranks have been defeated at the hustings and that is why parties are trying to gather their respective wits to face the ruling party in the lower house where it has massive majority.
Country's oldest party-the Congress- seems to be at loss as it is yet to decide who is going to be its leader in the Lok Sabha. After his resignation as the president of the party, whether Rahul Gandhi is going to lead his party that has only 52 MP's in the Lok Sabha or not is not yet clear. The party is adrift not knowing what direction to take to revive its political fortunes.
While the Congress has elected Sonia Gandhi as the chairperson of its parliamentary party and has authorised her to choose its leaders in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Rahul Gandhi cannot escape the responsibility of taking on the government in a focused manner leading from the front. He has to coordinate with other opposition leaders to evolve a common strategy on majority of issues so that the government could be checked and corrected.
Combined opposition needs to finalise its agenda for the session and has to fine tune its floor coordination but no such meeting has yet taken place.
Notwithstanding failures of the opposition to put its houses in order, it is an accepted principle in democracy that the party or parties in power seek cooperation from its political rivals in a spirit of give and take. Legislations are debated, passed and enacted with active cooperation of the opposition and valid points are conceded willingly by the ruling party.
Hopefully, a resounding victory in the elections has brought in some humility in the Prime Minister and his team so that the opposition can be taken into confidence to meet multifarious challenges that the country is facing on fronts of joblessness, agricultural distress, falling GDP, reduction if not total elimination of communal hatred and growing threats to social peace.
A repeat of the approach that the Modi government had followed during its first five years term would spell disaster for the parliamentary democracy. The Prime Minister has promised to take even those along who have not voted for his party of the NDA. He also said that this time he is going to win the confidence of every citizen including of those who opposed him and his party. If his words carry any conviction then it should be on demonstration in the two houses of parliament.
If he can indeed walk his talk, history awaits him to accord a place that no other leader in independent India has ever got. Opportunity is inviting him and he only has to stoop to seize it.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.



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