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Dysfunctional Opposition

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Why do people vote for a political party? Theoretically, it should be because they believe in its ideology, feel that the promises made in the manifesto meet their requirements, have confidence in the leaders, particularly the one representing their constituency. In a functional democracy like India, it is accepted that this is exactly why governments are in place, which is what provides them legitimacy. At the same time, however, it is also known that the political parties are nothing like they ought to be and the politicians are way below the required standard in terms of functional knowledge, constitutional awareness and quality of character. It is just that the general mood of the people is reflected enough in the mandate that keeps the system going.

This is obviously not good enough, particularly when the going gets tough. Understanding this, from time to time, there have been reforms and ‘democratic revolutions’ that have wrought change – from the early years of idealistic euphoria to present day realpolitik. In the present information age, there is a growing sense of what is required for the future. Surveys and anecdotal evidence suggest that there is a high level of satisfaction with those ruling at the centre and great dissatisfaction with the quality of the opposition, in particular the Congress party.

From being the party that led the freedom struggle and established the foundations of constitution based governance, the Congress is today reduced to a family proprietorship, which ought to have been declared bankrupt a long time ago. It has habitually frittered away its best assets over the years – Sharad Pawar, Mamta Banerjee, et al – and continues to do so with unfailing consistency. At times of crisis as the present one in Rajasthan, the occasional cry goes up for ‘reform’ and ‘action’, but is invariably followed by self-induced coma.

For how long have words like ‘the old guard’ and the ‘young Turks’ been bandied about to describe the goings-on? Nothing results because the party has ceased to be a functional organisation and is based entirely on the political (and financial) clout of its ruling family. The party might act as the glue in forging some kind of opportunistic unity for the opposition on occasion, but it is not at all able to provide governance, anymore. In its last stint – UPA 1&2 – the head of government was an appointee – chosen specifically for his inability to challenge ‘La Famiglia’, as that upstart Narsimha Rao had done. Sadly, the bitter truth is that the one who would be crowned lacks the ability to lead the battle, only seeks to occupy the seat of power as a birthright. This is the very opposite of what democracy requires. So, the same old story keeps repeating again and again, like being caught in a nightmare. It is time for India’s opposition to wake up and confront the grim reality! But, will it?