What’s more important for healthy democracy: Strong government or Strong Opposition

No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition”

– Benjamin Disraeli


This statement from a famous British novelist shows us the drastic requirement of a well organized opposition in the democracy but it could not contradict the importance of government as it is the working body which have to finally implement the decisions. Long discussed in the parliament. We could not truly give a leading edge to one over another as both have their equal importance in the working of a healthy democracy.

Now if we seek the situation from an individual point of view, opinions of different people would mostly mismatch as this is what democracy is (Every individual has its own right to present his point of view). Everyone have their own opinion on democracy; See lay defined democracy as form of government in which everybody has a share. Dicey called it a form of government in which governing body is comparatively a large fraction of entire nation. Literally, it is a form of political organization of society and the state under which power legally belongs to people and all citizens are equal before law and enjoy political rights and freedom. Majority of support goes with a strong government as compared to strong opposition for democracy (According to the people I had a conversation with, on this specific topic).Simple reason was that -the power relies in the hands of government. So, if they are the one to take decisions on good and bad of people, then they should be more important. A good reason to support government on outer level but if you go deep inside the workings and procedure of law making and policy making for people it also have a vital role of opposition in the act and this is the reason for the mismatching point of view of mine, from the majority. According to me if there is no strong opposition, democracy could easily be diverged to the path of one party rule or even dictatorship.

I truly believe so because the right opposition provides us with choices, good or bad and as a result it gives us the power to weigh the success or failures of our governments. And despite the fact that democracy ensures that we have a government of the people, for the people and by the people, its success is measured by a wise leadership and a vigilant public. Opposition party here have a very important two-fold function-one to place the matters of public interest before the government for action, and two to keep a check on the dictatorial and authoritarian actions of the government, it keeps a check on the misuse of authority and powers by the ruling party. The constant tug-of-war between the majority party and the opposition keeps the government on the toes and ensures good government. Imagine a government that stifles public opinion, doesn’t encourage diverse views and is disrespectful of opposition. In my opinion, that’s not a democracy, but a government that borders on fascism. I feel that a strong opposition keeps a healthy check on ruling party and its workings and even sometimes stops it from subjecting its people to unreasonable demands. Many of you would remember the stories of French revolution, The French king Louis XVII had become an absolute monarch and could only be removed by violent means, which lead to a widespread death and destruction in France. This shows that when people don’t have choices there is only bloodshed. Even in Russia, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were wiped out to usher in revolution. This happened because the Romanovs had lost touch with the common man and ignored their welfare. So, finally when the opposition came, it was in the form of Bolsheviks who put an end to the royal dynasty in a gruesome manner. These examples were given to emphasize the importance of having alternatives.

As the great Martin Luther King believed, we are all created equal. So, a government placed in power should not rise above the people. I think real work of opposition starts right after a General Election. Instead of packing your bags and going home a strong opposition should now step in and establish contacts and build networks with people and start the dialogue once more. They should carry the voices of underprivileged and marginalized to the elected leaders and tell them that democracy cannot only be limited to casting ballots. The mark of a true leader is the bond between him and his people. Coming on our own country, I feel a need of strong opposition in India which could function as a watchdog on ruling party and ensure that the government is exercising its power with care and respecting minorities and promoting communal harmony. But in a country like India where there is a multi-party system of governance, the very purpose of the opposition is marred. No doubt that the opposition parties try to co-operate between themselves over particular issue but most of the time they waste their time blaming each other instead of playing the role of check and balance to correct the democratic practices in the interest of entire public. In a democratic country a Prime Minister has a lot of powers which it could easily misconduct and turn out to be a dictator .India already witnessed a similar incident when in 1975, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, after the defeat at Allahabad High Court declared an emergency in India. It was unconstitutional, still she did it. These kind of incidents demand a strong opposition which could stop such a misuse of power to sustain a healthy democracy. Unless have a strong opposition serving as a check on our ruling political leaders, we will be vulnerable to corruption, civil and religious unrest. No government can succeed without a strong and effective opposition, and that’s what the founding fathers of our constitution have always wanted.

Like the party in power, the parties in opposition do have their ideologies, and policies which they try to sell to the people. Through motions, resolutions and bills in the legislature they strive for implementation of their policies. They oppose all such measures of the party in power which they consider unjust and anti-people. In addition they expose the misdeeds of the government. The objective is to keep the ruling party on the right track and not allow dishonest politicians to grid their own axe. A strong and vigilant opposition in itself is a powerful curb on governmental autocracy and official high handedness. No government howsoever strong could ignore a strong opposition. The opposition needs to be healthy as well which means it should be constructive and have a positive attitude towards the good policies raised by the government. A negative approach on the part of opposition would destroy its credibility which is the bedrock of its strength. It may be believed for quite some time earlier that opposition’s role is only negative but with passage of time passing by ,point of views changed as well, now it is considered to play a vital positive role in national politics.

So, overall a strong opposition is equally or even more important in certain conditions to sustain a healthy democracy .A strong opposition could totally change the working of a government through its influential ideas and thoughts on the current working scenarios, and could even help government on conditions of national needs and dangers.

In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable.”- Walter Lippmann.


The author of this post is Aniruddh Singh (a student at University of Lucknow)

The views expressed in this article belong to the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of the JEC Blog. We welcome comments and contributions to this blog – please comment below.

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