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Weak Oppn not good for democracy

Weak Oppn not good for democracy
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Ampashayya Naveen: Weak Opposition not Good for Democracy, the Congress party has failed even to get an official opposition party status is intriguing...

Every general election in India after 1967 has been presenting sensational surprises. In the recent elections, no one expected (every opinion poll) that the grand old party of India would be subjected to such a humiliating defeat. That the Congress party has failed even to get an official opposition party status is intriguing and not good for the Indian democracy. A strong opposition party is one of the basic needs of democracy. The Indian parliament failed to have a recognized official Opposition party in the past too. Mavalankar, the first Speaker of Independent India, had formulated that a party should get a minimum of 10% of members in the Lok Sabha to be designated as Opposition party. As long as Nehru was at the helm of affairs in the Congress party, all the three General Elections (1952, 1959 and 1962) were without an official Opposition party as the Congress party won more than 350 seats in Lok Sabha. But after Nehru’s death in 1964, Congress party’s vulnerability in the elections had started. In 1967, the fourth general elections were held when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Though Congress could get a simple majority in Lok Sabha (280 seats), in many States particularly in Northern states it failed to form governments. We could see the first Opposition leader only after 17 years in the fourth Lok Sabha (1969). The split in Congress party gave way to Dr Ram Subhagh Singh as the first Opposition leader.

Until 1967, the elections for both Lok Sabha and State Assemblies were held simultaneously. But Gandhi changed this process when she went for mid-term elections in 1971 only for Parliament. Many historical events had taken place between 1967 and 1970. The Congress party was split in 1969 when old guards of the party like K Kamaraj, Morarji Desai, S K Patil and Nijalingappa selected Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy as the official candidate of the party to contest for the post of President of India by surpassing Indira Gandhi’s preference for Jagjeevan Ram. Stung by the decision of the old guards of the party (they were known as Syndicate), Gandhi openly supported V V Giri (the then Vice-President) for the post of President and she left no stone unturned in getting her candidate elected as the President of India. As the result of this open defiance of the party, Gandhi was expelled from Congress party (K Kamaraj was the president of official Congress party). Then Gandhi formed her own Congress party and claimed that her party was the real Congress party. Her party was called Congress (I) and the other as Congress (O) (Congress Organsiation). Around 69 MPs belonging to Congress (O) led by Morarji Desai withdrew support to Indira Gandhi’s government and as a result she lost majority in Lok Sabha. But CPI came to her rescue and she could survive with their support. But suddenly she declared that her cabinet recommended for the dissolution of Lok Sabha opting for mid-term elections in 1971, 14 months ahead of the scheduled general elections. Thus she separated the elections for Parliament and State Assemblies.

A grand alliance with four Opposition parties – Congress (O), Jan Sangh, Swatantra Party and Socialist Party – were formed to fight elections against Indira Gandhi. The slogan of Indira Gandhi was ‘Garibi hataon’ (remove the poverty) and the slogan of the grand alliance ‘Indira hatoan’. Many national newspapers like ‘The Hindu’, ‘The Statesmen’, ‘The Indian Express’ went out of their way to extend their support to the Grand Alliance and predicted that Indira’s Congress was going to get a huge drubbing in the elections. The elections in 1971 were held in a single day all over India. When results were announced, all the forecasters were stunned and flabbergasted. It was Indira’s party everywhere. The so-called grand alliance faced a grand defeat and could get hardly 50 seats as against Indira’s 352 seats out of 518 seats. From then onwards, Indira’s leadership was unquestioned and she became the supreme leader of India. Her Leftist policies like nationalization of 14 scheduled Banks and abolition of Privy Purses to erstwhile Princes and her ‘garibi hataon’ caught the imagination of the people, particularly the weaker and downtrodden sections of India.

Many great events like war with Pakistan – in which India decisively defeated Pakistan and a new State called ‘Bangladesh’ was formed –consolidated Gandhi’s status as an uncrowned empress.

Suddenly in 1975, the Allahabad High Court gave a judgment that Indira’s election from Rai Bareli in 1971 was null and void. The Opposition parties led by Socialist Party leader Jaya Prakash Narayan made a great hue and cry demanding her immediate resignation. Instead of resigning, she declared internal emergency by putting all the Opposition party leaders behind bars. The elections to parliament which were due in 1976 were postponed and 5 year life of Parliament was extended. All the intellectuals thought that Gandhi would continue the emergency indefinitely and there would be no end to her dictatorial rule. But unexpectedly she went for the elections in early 1977, released all the jailed leaders and removed the restrictions on media. She was supremely confident that her party would get the mandate of the people again. All the opposition parties came together and formed a new party called ‘Janatha Party’. The atrocities committed by Indira’s Congress Party under the leadership of Sanjay Gandhi were highlighted by the Press during the election campaign. The results of these elections were again stunning. Congress (I) failed miserably in four major Northern states with its overall tally of 154 seats. Both Indira and Sanjay Gandhi were defeated. Janatha party got an absolute majority (295 seats) in parliament. It elected Morarji Desai as the Prime Minister but this experiment didn’t last for long. The four major parties which were merged into one single party had many differences. They maintained their separate identity and fought with each other on every issue. All of them tried to take revenge on Gandhi. She was tried and sent to jail. All these activities of Janatha Party generated a lot of sympathy for Gandhi. Indira did come back after Janatha Party’s defeat in the elections of 1979. The results of these elections were also a great surprise as Indira returned to power with 353 seats.

After Indira’s assassination in 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was elected as Prime Minister with more than 400 seats (even his grandfather Nehru could never win so many seats). But he failed to continue in power after 1989 elections. From then onwards, no single party could win a majority of seats in Lok Sabha. The Modi wave this year has broken this record. Political analysts are saying that this is not a wave but a tsunami. The Left presence is totally marginalised, Congress considerably weakened and now the Lok Sabha is totally ‘Right’. We have to wait and see how far the ‘Right’ orientation is right for the country.

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