Editorial: Rahul Gandhi Occupies Rightful Post

Editorial: Rahul Gandhi Occupies Rightful Post

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, June 27, 2024, 11:04 PM IST
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On Wednesday, the Lok Sabha witnessed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi escorting the newly-elected Speaker Om Birla to his official chair. It was just four months ago that Modi had contemptuously predicted that the Congress members would have to sit in the visitors’ gallery. While granting an interview, he rhetorically asked who Rahul Gandhi was. It is after a decade that the House has a Leader of the Opposition. The BJP had relied on an old ruling from the fifties to deny the post to the Congress on the grounds that it did not have 55 members, ie, 10% of the House, though the Constitution does not specify this requirement. It is the first time in his two and a half decades of political career that Gandhi holds a Constitutional post that entitles him to be privy to the process of selection for key posts in the government.

What is often forgotten is that Gandhi has 20 years of experience as a Parliamentarian, double that of Modi. In Britain, the Leader of Opposition is considered the Prime Minister-in-waiting. The situation in India is quite different, as the post of Prime Minister goes to anyone who commands the support of a majority of the members of the House. Nonetheless, the Leader of Opposition plays a major role in the smooth functioning of the House. As Gandhi himself pointed out, the Prime Minister has the mandate of the people to govern, and the Opposition, too, represents the voice of the people. In other words, they are two sides of the same coin, chosen by the people to maintain the delicate balance required in a democracy. Any attempt to ride roughshod over the other will have disastrous consequences.

Modi had an advantage in the 16th and 17th Lok Sabha as his party commanded a majority. Now he is critically dependent on the support of the constituents of the National Democratic Alliance to carry on. The Opposition has also gained strength and is no longer a pushover. It will have adequate representation in all parliamentary committees, and it would be in the fitness of things that it is heard while considering or finalising Bills. In other words, the success of the government is crucially dependent on how it manages the Opposition. Nobody in the ruling party now calls Rahul Gandhi a “Pappu” because he is now the Leader of the Opposition in his own right.

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