Sutanu Guru, Executive Director, C Voter Research Foundation
It is important for the health of Indian democracy to have a strong opposition which is also responsible. Sadly, the opposition is becoming weak and irresponsible.
For a few days between June 15 and June 18, it appeared as if the entire country was on fire. The armed forces had announced a new Agneepath recruitment scheme for soldiers. Under this scheme, 75% of recruits will “retire” after 4 years with a one time package of about Rs 12 lakhs with no pension and other benefits. The protests turned so violent in Bihar that multiple trains and railway stations were burnt down, apart from buses, public property and even a few police stations. Similar protests were seen even in Uttar Pradesh but were quelled swiftly. In the capital of Telengana, Secunderabad, protestors station attacked the station and burnt down a few trains, with passengers fleeing for their lives. Most opposition parties and many “liberal” journalists virtually justified this senseless violence by suggesting that the youth of the country felt betrayed by the government.
Thankfully, the violence subsided after a few days when hundreds were arrested and the armed forces publicly stated that they would never recruit young Indians who indulge in arson and violence. The Congress party has been organising “nationwide” protests even now against the scheme, but the protests have by and large petered out. The Indian Air Force launched its recruitment drive under the new scheme last week. In just 3 days, it has received close to 60,000 applications. If young Indians were actually so implacably against the new scheme, why would so many of them apply? Sadly, the Congress seems cut off from reality. Even as it keeps losing election after election and now actually rules just two states, it seems to think merely opposing every government policy will turn the tide. Its not going to happen.
The patently irresponsible behaviour of some opposition parties was visible even during the Nupur Sharma controversy where she had allegedly used offensive words against Prophet Mohammed. Her sudden outburst during a TV debate was definitely in poor taste; and perhaps in violation of law under the Indian Penal Code. Many Muslims were offended and demanded that legal action must be taken against her. But a section of hard line Islamists started publicly demanding nothing but death for Nupur Sharma and extremely violent protests were seen in many parts of India. Once again, many opposition parties decided to turn a blind eye to this egregious behaviour. As did many liberal journalists. Imtiaz Zaleel, a former NDTV journalist and currently the AIMIM Lok Sabha MP from Aurangabad in Maharashtra allegedly announced publicly that Sharma needs to be publicly hanged in Aurangabad. There were hardly any voices condemning this from a Lok Sabha MP. There was a time when pandering to hard line Muslims paid electoral and political dividends. No longer because it has resulted in hard line Hinduism and a consolidation of Hindu votes. Just a few days ago, the Samajwadi Party lost bye elections in the Azamgarh and Rampur Lok Sabha seats, both SP strongholds for decades. This after comprehensively losing two assembly and two Lok Sabha elections.
Exactly the same was seen during the protests over the three farm laws that sought to reform the agriculture sector in the country. Protestors virtually laid siege to the capital Delhi and shut down highways leading to the city causing immense hardship to ordinary Indians. They even indulged in hooliganism and violence during the Republic Day in 2021, including vandalising the iconic Red Fort. The Congress supported the protests, repeatedly insisting that the three farm laws were going to enable “greedy capitalists” to snatch away land from farmers. Ironically, in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress had promised a similar set of reforms. What does that speak about the credibility of the main opposition party in India? Pundits and liberal journalists were of the opinion that the anger of farmers will singe the BJP and it will lose the 2022 assembly elections. Nothing of the sort happened as the BJP and its allies won a big repeat mandate and the Congress was reduced to just 3 seats in an assembly of 403.
Exactly the same happened after the Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act. Opposition parties encouraged wild rumours that Muslims in India were going to be disenfranchised and lose their citizenship. The Muslim community definitely had genuine apprehensions about the implications of the new law. But surely, even opposition parties and liberal journalists should not have increased the apprehensions. This posturing and propaganda eventually led to the communal riots in Delhi where more than 50 people were killed needlessly.
Barring some states where regional parties have successfully handled and electorally defeated the BJP, it is become an almost hegemonic force in national politics. Going by current trends, unless something drastic happens, the BJP looks all set to win the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Complete hegemony of any political party cannot be a healthy sign for any democracy. A strong opposition is needed to keep the BJP from becoming too arrogant and thinking it can do anything since it has electoral support. But where is that opposition?
About the Author:
After his masters degree in economics, Sutanu Guru has been a journalist for more than 30 years in media outlets like Times of India, Economic Times, Business Today, Business World, Business India & others. Currently, he focuses more on research and writing.
This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com.