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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Opposition & position

Arithmetic is an ally, noise helps, but an effective counter to government when Parliament is in session is on House floor

By: Editorial |
Updated: July 29, 2021 7:32:49 am
Non-BJP parties will need to weigh competing imperatives.

The political lull imposed by the pandemic, pierced by the assembly elections that took place amid the public health emergency, is now broken by the Monsoon Session of Parliament. This is welcome. Even as the government steers the nation through crisis, the Opposition needs to make itself heard, asking questions, offering suggestions, calling for correctives and accountability. Of course, the Opposition’s predicament is a challenging one. Already hobbled by its paltry numbers vis-a-vis a government armed with both a decisive majority and the will to dominate, it must also deal with the expansion of executive powers in a pandemic. In this backdrop, the meetings of a wide array of Opposition parties on Tuesday and Wednesday in the national capital, demonstrate a rare jointness and unanimity. Theirs is evidently a bid to marshal arithmetic to amplify their demand — that the government must discuss in both Houses of Parliament the serious allegations sparked by the Pegasus revelations about the use of sophisticated Israeli spyware to potentially target political opponents, public officials, businesspeople and journalists. Other important issues also await Parliament’s attention — the threat of a third Covid wave ahead, children’s vaccination, farmers’ protests, faltering economic recovery, and most recently, violence between Assam and Mizoram, pitting state against state.

For the Opposition, while arithmetic will be key, and stitching up a broad-based coalition will be a daunting goal ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, there are other challenges in the near term. Non-BJP parties will need to weigh competing imperatives. For instance, while it may be necessary to ratchet up pressure on a government that has so far refused to answer questions on Pegasus, and that seems inclined to brazen it out, disrupting the House or staying out of it, is taking a narrow view. At a time when Parliament is in session, parties of the Opposition need to devise ways to bring the most important issues to its table, where they can be discussed, in full public view. Noise has its value, but not when it drowns the voice.

The strategy of stalling proceedings or walking out is counter-productive for an Opposition whose space is shrinking and which does not have many options of making itself seen and heard. In the Monsoon session so far, both Houses have seen repeated adjournments. This needs to change. It is in the Opposition’s, and indeed democracy’s interest, to ensure that political dialogue or face-off takes place inside the House, not outside it, where the playing field is arguably much less level and much more tilted towards the ruling establishment.

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