Gulf should not widen
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It seems the gulf between ruling party and opposition has widened in recent days. This is not good for better democracy. Both parties are becoming aggressive with each passing day. The recent skirmish between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and union minister Smriti Irani is a testimony to this bitterness of animosity of these two parties. Congress is as usual making allegations of misuse of Enforcement Directorate which was on the front during the emergency period to suppress all democratic rights of people. Now they are crying for government suppressing opposition voices. Of course, if BJP is involved in suppressing people’s rights, it should be condemned in strongest possible words. But the hypocrisy of Congress has come to the fore. In any case, the gulf between rulers and opposition should not allowed to be widened. Opposition parties monitoring and protesting the mistakes of the government constitutes the very essence of democracy. It should be acceptable even if in the process occasionally there is some exaggeration. At the same time care should be taken not to allow the gulf between the government and the opposition to become too wide, to reach a point of no return, to create a highly undesirable and harmful situation in which it is not possible to create a consensus or cooperation even on matters of urgent national interest. The responsibility of not allowing the gulf to become so wide as to be harmful to the wider national interest rests with both the opposition parties and the government, but the higher responsibility lies with the stronger side, the ruling one. We only have to look next door to realize how much a country can suffer, how much the national interests can be harmed if this gulf between the government and the opposition becomes too wide. This can be seen from the example of Bangladesh, a country which has several credible achievements but has faltered in this respect. This can also be seen increasingly in Pakistan. India must avoid this path. India has a very healthy past in this context from which we can still learn much. Jawaharlal Nehru won his elections with big margins and the ruling party – the Indian National Congress was very strong. But Nehru was generally tolerant of the criticism of opposition parties and leaders, even feeling happy when some new opposition leaders showed exceptional eloquence or oratorical skills in Parliament (as in the case of the young Jana Sangh MP Atal Bihari Vajpayee). The opposition often managed to punch above its weight, which was good for democracy as they did not have adequate numbers in Parliament. Strong critics like Ram Manohar Lohia could sometimes be more bitter against Nehru than was warranted, and less mindful of his many virtues, but Nehru could not think of being vindictive towards such opposition leaders. He recognized Lohia as a leader of many-sided abilities and let the matter rest there. On the other hand, when Nehru died a shattered man, some of the most touching, heartfelt tributes came from opposition leaders, among them Vajpayee. When India faced its toughest post-independence challenge in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1970- 71, on the whole there was significant support from the opposition, although the Jan Sangh initially made the mistake of exerting pressure for very early action before our armed forces were ready for it, as communicated clearly by the brilliant General Sam Manekshaw. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did well to resist this pressure, while at the same time trying to create broad national consensus. Senior national leaders like Jayaprakash Narayan contributed significantly to India’s already strong moral strength before the international community. Unfortunately, these healthy traditions were disrupted very badly during the emergency which lasted for less than two years. On the whole India has rich traditions of opposition and the government cooperation for wider national interest. In more recent times India has moved away from this healthy trend. The gulf between the government and several opposition parties has been increasing rapidly and has already become too wide. It is time to warn – no further. This is urgently needed to ensure that we do not reach a point of no return. With responsibility on both parts, it is still possible to step back and avoid the danger zone. Even if Modi gives orders to air strikes at Balakot after Pulwama attack, Rahul Gandhi expresses doubts. This type of hypocrisy is not expected from opposition also. The democratic atmosphere should be free and fair now by both sides.