The Prime Minister has sounded unusually conciliatory towards the Opposition in his remarks since the poll outcome. Far from rubbing salt in its wounds, Modi and his senior colleagues have stressed the need of cooperation and conciliation. Even when the Opposition is down, and mired in existentialist battles, — for proof, witness the disarray in the Congress Party - there has been no attempt by the ruling party to humiliate it. This is a welcome change from the sharp and salty belligerence Modi had shown towards his rivals on the campaign trail.
But what is notable is that Modi has repeatedly addressed himself to the Opposition, seeking cooperation and conciliation in the larger cause of nation-building. In his remarks while addressing the newly-elected BJP members and later at an all-party meeting on the eve of the opening of the 17th Lok Sabha, Modi appealed to the Opposition leaders to offer constructive criticism, to correct whenever the government erred, and to support whenever it found the government on the right track. Its reduced numbers in the House ought not to deter it from offering constructive criticism, he said, adding that the government would fully consider their suggestions and criticisms.
Happily, he followed up this conciliatory tone on Monday as well. Speaking minutes before the start of the inaugural session of the 17th Lok Sabha, he told reporters that regardless of their numbers ‘every word of the Opposition was valuable’. “People have given them the numbers they have but for the government every word, every idea is important… the spirit of impartiality in the House is more important than being in power or in Opposition…” Modi said. He sought cooperation of the Opposition to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament. Whether a victorious Modi is being extra magnanimous, and unusually conciliatory, or it is a genuine change of heart, will be known only in the coming weeks and months when politics settles down to the new normal after the recent poll. But it would have been appropriate if the Opposition too had responded to Modi’s gesture in a positive spirit.
Instead, the Congress Party a few hours later on Monday virtually rejected Modi’s offer of cooperation, accusing him of using Parliament as a ‘rubber stamp’ in his first prime ministerial stint. This was not very helpful in building consensus and reducing bitterness from the polity. Juxtaposed with the earlier exhortation of Rahul Gandhi to the party MPs that in this Parliament ‘they will have to shout even more,’ and not be cowed down by the majority, the Opposition, it seems, is still to get over its rejection by the people. We can only hope, for its own good and for the larger good of the country, that the Opposition and the ruling party can work together in a spirit of give-and-take without jeopardising our nascent parliamentary democracy. At this stage of economic and political development, an attempt to derail the system would put the clock back to the detriment of the ordinary people. Modi should try and take the Opposition along in the larger interest of the people — even if the Opposition is churlish enough to reject the proffered hand of friendship.