Opposition Politics

The new Government is being put together. As a pleasant surprise, we have had a decisive verdict in the polls and now its time for the government and the opposition to get back to work.

The government of course, has it’s work cut out. This time, hopefully, they will be able to focus on development and on actual governance as opposed to policies just to keep their coalition partners happy. At this time, I think it is important for the opposition to introspect and work on their issues. And also, concentrate on the more important bit  – on performing the role of a constructive opposition.

We have always seen in India, how the opposition believes in ‘opposing’ – everything and anything that the govt comes up with. I do wish our opposition comes to understand that just because they are in the ‘opposition’, it does not mean that they have to literally ‘oppose’ everything. A good opposition should act as a check when it comes to harmful policies and as a support in the times that the Govt needs support. Unfortunately, none of our political parties behave that way.. They are normally just too happy to score brownie points – not realizing that their conduct just lowers their respect in the electorate’s eyes.  I would have loved to see BJP support the government on the  nuclear issue.. The way they behaved just made it look like they were opposing it – just for the sake of it.. Had they been in power, they would have done the exact same thing that the UPA govt did. Instead of standing together for the good of the nation, it just tried to play opportunistic politics.. Having said that, I am sure even the UPA had the roles been reversed – would have behaved just the way BJP did..

I do wish we had the concept of Shadow Cabinet , like they have in Britain. I wonder why, when we took everything else from the British , did we leave this out?  It is such a great concept. It is the Shadow Cabinet’s responsibility to pass criticism on the current government and its respective legislation, as well as offering alternative policies. Every cabinet portfolio, will have a shadow portfolio as well. So you have a Cabinet minister responsible for health, for instance and a shadow minster responsible for the same.. I think it helps improve the working knowledge of the opposition and also gives the electorate an idea of how the opposition can be expected to perform, if they were to come to power.. I personally feel that it also improves the accountability of the opposition.

 A good opposition checks and balances out a government. I do so hope that the parties in the opposition, particularly the BJP as it is the largest opposition party, if it wants to have a better showing next time round, needs to gear up and play the role of a constructive, effective opposition and not one of a disruptive opposition. A government with weak or no opposition can turn out to be even more dangerous than a cobbled together coalition government. Lets hope that both the government and the opposition work together for a better India.


PS: Does anyone know why we did not adopt the Shadow Cabinet? Was there any specific reason for it? I was not able to figure out.. I would love to know!

34 thoughts on “Opposition Politics

  1. Well Smitha, I’m first to read this BUT unfortunetly don’t have a clue what to say. I know nothing about Indian politics and not a clue on how things work there. I just hope someone can tell you why India doesn’t have a shadow cabinet. 😕

    Badz 🙂 I do hope so too 🙂 It will be interesting to find out..

  2. Hey, very well written and I agree with everything you’ve said…

    If India had a shadow government, then opposition wouldn’t have been able to oppose the govt. for the sake of opposing!

    Yes, and they would actually be thinking of policies and we as voters will have a better idea of what the opposition parties have in mind, if we vote them into power..

  3. Very well written Smitha! I agree.
    I don’t think our opposition parties even realise that they too have a responsible part in governance.
    I know! That is what is appalling!
    Shadow government would have been such a blessing for us!

    I do wish we had a shadow government.. It would make the opposition far more accountable.

  4. Great Analysis ,

    I had come across the same question ( Shadow cabinet in India ),My Analysis is as follows,

    1.The Role of Opposition is not defined in Constitution of India,for the first 3 decades after our independence we didn’t have any Opposition party in India ( Party should have atleast 10% membership of LS, which is ~50 Seats). Indira Gandhi used to ask ” where is the Opposition?”

    2. For shadow cabinet, the Opposition Party need to have atleast as many as Ministers present in Govt. the BJP had just 2 seats in 1984 Elections after death of Mrs.Gandhi, TDP had 30(3rd Largest) seats in 1984 elections but in 1989 TDP had 2 seats! So Political Parties can’t cope with so much dynamics.

    Yes, agreed, it is still doable – with the single largest party forming a shadow cabinet.. It is possible – all that we donot have is the political will

    So shadow cabinet is possible in 2 dominant party system (UK) , I don’t know how Canada manages shadow cabinet , It is Present in Canada 🙂

    It is there in a lot of countries..Australia, Bahamas, Canada – the whole list is here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Cabinet
    And even in the UK, there are 3 dominant parties – Labour, Conservative and the Lib Dems..

    Also Our opposition parties don’t want to have too many Leaders in the party, some say that BJP Lost Elections just because they Projected Modi as Future PM. SO no one will take such a risk in future.

    Having a shadow cabinet does not mean too many leaders – it is just a way of assigning responsibility.. After all it is an indication of what the opposition would do when in power.

    If the Opposition really wants Shadow system, it can go-ahead, the Only thing needed is Particular Opp. member should criticise particular Minister’s policies. some consensus in BJP is all needed.

    That makes a lot of sense, Nagesh. The way I see it, parties can still implement it – as you say with a little consensus.. But I guess they will never do that – as that will only increase the amount of work they will need to do.. I do wish some party would do it though as I am sure it will make a difference.. That was a wonderful , detailed and informative comment – Thank you !

  5. Bravo . You have hit the nail , on the head . Quite often , have I wondered , whether the opposition in India opposes just for the sake for it , and does it have to oppose everything ? If I am not wrong , the NDA initiated the nuclear deal in the last leg of their reign , and when the UPA decided to get it done , they were hoarse with crying No . WTH is that . It seems as if the opposition is so afraid of not coming back to power, that they try and paint everything the incumbent Government is doing as against National Interests .

    Thank you Kislay. I always wondered too.. And when I saw the way the parliament is conducted here – it was an eye opener.. They are so professional and the issues that are raised are so pertinent – not general rhetoric.. I just wish we had taken all the good points from the Britsh parliament too …

    ‘ It seems as if the opposition is so afraid of not coming back to power, that they try and paint everything the incumbent Government is doing as against National Interests .’
    Yes, assuming that we voters cannot figure it out.. I do hope this changes as our democracy evolves..

  6. Dont know what to say.
    As Nagesh(above) said, may be this is bcoz we don’t have an opposition as such until a long time. and when we started having an opposition, the ruling party wouldn’t want to follow it.. Hence no amendments to the constitution.

    Yes, Nagesh definitely makes sense.. Even if the constitution is not amended – I am sure the parties themselves can do it as part of their party policy – but are they even interested or bothered?

  7. Very fine analysis Smitha. Yes, the opposition thnks its job is exactly as the word means. I have little doubt that the way the BJP opposed the Nuclear Deal which it would have died to get, not only showed LK Advani in poor light but also made look Dr Manmohan Singh taller. That was the big turning point for both Dr Manmohan who emerged a real, decisive leader who was even otherwise spotless, and for the BJP whose stock took a nosedive.

    Yes, absolutely! I am sure a lot of us would have had a lot of respect for Advani if he had supported the govt instead..

    But, it must be said that when the NDA was in power, the UPA did little better. The way they did not allow George Fernandes even to speak in Parliament for a very long time on the charge of him being personally corrupt was shameful to say the least. After all the hounding then, they could not lay even a finger on him in five years of power. It was only Pranab Mukherjee who, on becoming Defence Minister, gracefully stopped that witch hunt.

    Oh, absolutely! The congress is even worse as an Opposition – I think they are so used to power that they just cannot handle being in the opposition 🙂 It is true irrespective of which party is in the opposition..

    As to the Shadow cabinet, Nagesh has spoken well. That works well in a two party system. Even otherwise, there are many instances where we have copied the form of what the British followed but have forgotten the substance.
    Yes, it does work better in a 2 party system.. but even in the current scenario, where BJP is the single largest oppostion party – they can easily do it as part of their internal policy – nothing stops them.. And it can work too.. but the question is – are they even remotely bothered..

    Let us hope this time parliamentarians on both sides of the divide show greater responsibility and dignity that they must as representatives of a billion plus people.

    Yes, hope is all we can do.. Lets see what the next 5 years hold for India..

  8. “A good opposition checks and balances out a government.”

    I hope BJP turns out into a responsible opposition party since they almost made it this time as a the next best one..

    An excellent read Smitha..

    Thank you Asha.. I certainly hope so.. It will be good if we have 2 good parties to choose from – rather than have to choose the ‘lesser evil’ 😦

  9. Yeah Smitha completely agree with what you say. And this Shadow Cabinet seems to be a good idea. But I think, it means, shadow ministers working as hard as real ministers but not getting any *perks* in return 🙂 So this idea is bound to fail 🙂 he he

    Yes, Rakesh – That is probably the real reason why we will never have a Shadow Cabinet 😦 Sad isn’t it? And funnily enough, their incomes do seem to multiply every year?

  10. Superb post Smitha… couldn’t agree more with you.. our opposition party does what the name says and not the actual thing… they must see the government with the common man’s eye… then only they could be able to criticise the government which will be a eye opener for the rulers and will yield some good things for this nation and its citizens.. 🙂 and i dono about shadow government… seems to be a real good one… but it wont happen in india just like lokpal 😦

    Yes, it would be so good if our leaders decided to act for the benefit of the nation rather than for their selfish reasons..

  11. A good opposition checks and balances out a government. I do so hope that the parties in the opposition, particularly the BJP as it is the largest opposition party, if it wants to have a better showing next time round, needs to gear up and play the role of a constructive, effective opposition and not one of a disruptive opposition——exactly the way I think:)

    I have always felt this way and after I saw the way the British cabinet works – I keep wishing our govt and oppositon was more responsible.

  12. Fantastic post… Well written..
    I agree we need a good opposition, a party which helps the governance and not just “oppose” and create problems in the Parliment…
    But, I’m not too sure about a Shadow Government..
    Hearing about it for the first time here, so will try to research more on this…

    I first heard of the Shadow Cabinet while reading ‘Yes Minister, Yes Prime Minister’ 🙂 And saw the way it works in the UK.. I think it has its merits. But I doubt if we will ever follow it in India..

    But that should stop the opposition from acting responsibly, should it?

  13. Thanks for this one. I so agree with you and feel the need for a responsible opposition. I wish besides the shadow government , we had also adopted the round of Presidential Candidates Debates and Town Halls, the way they have in the US. It allows the masses to know their candidates better, personality and policy wise as well. Because in these debates they have to do more than just rattle off speeches written by speechwriters. If yu are doing that you will be caught. You need to know the game you are professing you will play well.

    Absolutely! Chrysalis, when the leaders debate in the US – they talk numbers.. they talk about their plans and how they think they could change things.. In direct contrast – our politicians talk about other politicians.. nobody talks about numbers.. and not even the media thinks of asking.. As you say, its just speeches.. which are mainly rhetoric.. How I wish we had more substance coming out…
    I wish all the schemes that are announced by the govt were professionally tracked- that way we would know about their effectiveness.. Right now we have to go by what they say..

  14. Smitha, a shadow cabinet is a great idea! Then the opposition would actually have to do some homework on policies and proposed bills, instead of opposing for the sake of opposing!

    Yes, Manju, but sadly there is little chance that we will adopt it – at least not in the near future..

  15. Brilliant Article Smitha!
    I remember those lines in a comment by you only at IHM’s blog I think..where you had spoken about the need for a constructive opposition ..

    I have always felt this.. I just wish our leaders felt the need for it too.. Instead of demonstrating in the well of the Lok Sabha – it would be more useful if they had serious, point based debates on issues that they disagree with the govt on..

    A good opposition should act as a check when it comes to harmful policies and as a support in the times that the Govt needs support.

    I had no clue as such about Shadow Cabinet..thanks!for sharing..
    it seems like a brilliant idea! I too wonder why we dont have it
    also though this sounds rude or too pessimistic but I dont think the Indan mindset would even be able to grasp or comprehend the concept of a shadow cabinet..
    I mean no favours?no family connections?no taking advantage of lucrative positions?
    just working to act as a balance?

    😆 Yes – how can it work? ‘I mean no favours?no family connections?no taking advantage of lucrative positions?
    just working to act as a balance?
    ‘ Yes – that sure is the sad part 😦 How I wish we had audits into governance – like all other organisations have.. I am sure they would come to the conclusion that our leaders do little constructive work – both govt and the opposition, for that matter..

    A government with weak or no opposition can turn out to be even more dangerous than a cobbled together coalition government.
    brilliant line again!
    that’s a very important observation Smitha!

    PS:-your posts on politics (as well as the comments)are quite something you know!
    awesome would be the word 🙂

    Thank you Abhi, for your generous comments 🙂 You sure are good for my ego 🙂 This is just something I feel – and a quick write at that – not very well researched or anything 😦

    • hey!well researched or not..this was a great post as are the ones you write always..coz you write what you feel strongly about..

      that comment at my space?
      did you research for that?:P
      nahin na?
      coz you felt so strongly you wrote…
      and see the power of those words!

      Everyone is praising those words fo yours..

      no amount of research could gave made anyone write the way you have done!


      As I said, Abhi, you are very good for my ego 🙂 Thank you 🙂

  16. I am getting tired of politics.. !

    oh oh! What do I do now? How do I think of something to interest DhirenBhai 🙂 I was wondering why you did not oblige with your presence here, so far 🙂

  17. I wonder if this is the first time I have come to your blog. Well, just added you to my surfer after reading this post. You ask why not a shadow cabinet. Well, I guess our netas won’t find it convenient. We have a hierachy in India, almost as if the government are the rulers and I think the government is influenced by the British government. But the British government which was in power in India! They wanted absolute power, without any criticism!

    Nita, Welcome here! You are right! Our netas certainly won’t find it convenient – why ask for work? when they can get away with doing nothing! Yes, it certainly looks like ‘they wanted absolute power, without any criticism’!

  18. yeh kya ho raha hai???? why r all u pp writing about a topic that i can’t even spell correctly??? 😛

    😆 What to do 😦 Promise – next one – will be something you like more 🙂
    but Smitha, ur post was really informative and so well constructed! i think i’m finally gonna get a hang of politics n its ways thru all you bloggers who write so crystal clear about it 🙂

    Thank you 🙂 I am sure you will get a hang of it -so many of us are blogging about it 🙂 Difficult to escape 😦

    i had no clue about this shadow govt system, but it sounds like a great idea. but u know smitha, i may sound cynnical, but the working of every great idea will need integrity, and unfortunately we have none 😐

    You are right! Sadly, our so called leaders have little integrity.. That is the crux of the problem.. There are so many things that could be done – if only they had integrity

    while oppositions will always be seen as “threat” or “the rival gang” the quest remains to prove and to rule…not to govern at all…

    we first need a system that need not be saint-like, but are fair and have integrity. it is so tough to find individuals that care beyond own personal gains when it comes to taking decisions, finding a group that will do so, even when not in power seems like a dream to me..

    Yes, absolutely! Well said!! Things would be so different if our leader actually believed in doing something beyond lining their own pockets..

    i dunno if i drifted or am still in context..:D but Smitha, i agree, we’d be a much forward nation if we had oppositions acting mature irrespective of their lack of direct control and the ruling govt acting mature to do the same.
    i can’t believe i’m writing on politics-based posts. pliss to change the topic….chocolate-related posts r most welcome 😉

    For some one who claimed to have no idea of politics – that was some comment!!! You are too modest!!! Promise – next post – will try do something different 🙂

  19. Oh Smitha,I wish there was a shadow cabinet in India!Those opposition guys would have some meaningful and responsible job to do rather than just attacking on the ruling party for every move they make,despite the fact that they would do the exxxxact same thing when they themselves are in power.But the only difference is,they’d have an entirely different story to back up their decision then.Its funny and ridiculous sometimes!!I wish they spoke the truth once in a while and said what they really think.They dont support the government’s decisions even when its evvident that its the best they could ever do!Sometimes its sooooo obvious that they are lying …

    Exactly Rajeswari! Wish they come to their senses soon.. I do hope that they realise that people start losing confidence with the opposition rather than the ruling party with this kind of mindless opposition!

  20. Smi, That is an apt analysis.

    Our opposition party be it Congress or BJP or any small party, always fails to implement their rights. They become caricatures instead and concentrate on opposing every single thing ruling party does.

    Yes, our opposition always behaves like this – irrespective of which party is in the opposition..

  21. Okay can you tell me in simple terms what a shadow government is?

    Ok, Winnie, here you go..

    Basically, just in the way that the Govt has ministers for different portfolios – the opposition will hve its own cabinet – a cabinet which will shadow the real cabinet! So for instance, if the Finance Minister comes up with a new policy, we will have a shadow finance minister from the opposition who will be responsible for analysing everything and countering it – if needed, in the parliament.

    More details here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_Cabinet.. Let me know if you have any doubts 🙂

  22. I guess this is how modern democracy has evolved – gone are the days when democracy used to be for the people, now it is only for politicians. And brownie points are all that matter.

    Yes, ‘And brownie points are all that matter.’ – sad, isn’t it?

    Again, it isn’t just BJP, but all parties that are guilty of mindless opposition to policy decisions just to malign the government and act like that are playing a role in the parliament.

    Oh yes! Absolutely!

    A shadow cabinet might be a good idea. I had heard of this concept, but not sure why we didn’t pick up that part of the British legacy.

    Probably as Nita says, we wanted the power but none of the responsibilities…

  23. Pingback: How tempting and how impossible! « The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  24. Our politicians do things which they find convenient. Shadow politics will make them answerable. It will be too much tension so I am sure they would never let that happen.

    Yes, exactly!

    One the other hand, if the opposition works properly, then we won’t need shadow cabinate.
    The opposition should oppose only when they are sure that they would have never taken the same step if they would have been in power. But here, all the screaming is just to make sure that they come to power the next time.


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