Opposition Needs To Play Constructive Role

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Both the ruling and opposition parties have a pivotal role to play in strengthening parliamentary democracy. These two parties should work in tandem in the interests of their country and people. However, the functions and responsibilities of these parties are different. While the ruling party governs, the opposition party keeps the ruling party accountable to the country and people. Accountability is something crucial that compels the ruling party to work for the good of the country and people. The opposition party checks and monitors the actions of the government. It debates bills in parliament and gives suggestions, if required. The ruling party should take such suggestions in a positive light and revise the bills by considering such suggestions accordingly. 

Parliamentary democracy is based on the party system of government. Such democracy is governed by two parties: ruling and opposition parties or coalitions. In parliamentary democracy, decisions are taken on a majoritarian basis. However, members of parliament can hold different views. It is said that majority has its way, while minority has its say. It is natural that arguments and counter-arguments may take place in democracy. People are free to express their views through their elected representatives. They can express their complaints or grievances as well. 

Healthy criticism 

The role of the opposition party is all the more pronounced in parliamentary democracy. The opposition party questions the decisions and actions of the government, drawing the latter’s attention to the matters of public interest or importance. It constructively criticises the plans, policies, programmes, bills, laws, etc. of the government if they are deemed not proper, and in the process, inspires the government to work for the good of the country and people. It may, however, be kept in mind that the opposition party should not oppose every decision of the government just for the sake of opposition. If the decision is right, the opposition party should help the government implement the decision. 

The opposition party should act in such as a way as to expose the weaknesses, if any, of the government so that the government can rectify and build upon such weaknesses. As the government may be busy in internal or external affairs, it is incumbent upon the opposition party to remind the government of its duties and obligations. The government always has its duties and obligations toward the country and people. In this regard, the opposition party can play a big role. There are various parliamentary committees in parliamentary democracy. The opposition party can have its leaders on such committees. Through such committees, the opposition party can provide checks and balances on the functioning of the government.   

So the role of the opposition party in parliamentary democracy cannot be overstated. When the ruling and opposition parties work hand in hand, a lot can be done for the country and people. But the ruling and opposition parties in Nepal do not seem to have been working together to strengthen parliamentary democracy. They are always at loggerheads with each other. There is a coalition government in the country. The main opposition party is the CPN-UML, with the Rastriya Swatantra Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party being other opposition forces. The opposition parties have a proclivity for criticising the decisions and actions of the government. 

The UML had opposed the policy and programmes of the government the other day. It went as far as to demand that the policy and programmes be rewritten. However, the policy and programmes were passed in parliament without revising any contents. When the government did not pay attention to the UML’s demand for revising the policy document, it has now criticised the budget unveiled by the government. The UML has asked the government to revise the budget, saying that doing so would not constitute a failure on the part of the government.

The ruling and opposition parties do not seem to have knowledge of parliamentary etiquette. The opposition party makes it a religion of hauling the government over the coals even over minor matters. Whatever programmes the government introduces, the opposition party makes it a point of criticising it. The opposition party should play a constructive role in the process of governance so that the plans and programmes of the government can be translated into action. But as things stand, the plans and programmes of the government do not commend themselves to the opposition party. There is a general tendency on the part of a political party to praise the programmes launched when it is in power. As soon as the party is in the opposition, it begins opposing similar programmes.   

Antagonism  

The constant squabbles between the ruling and opposition parties show that the political parties are hungry for power. They are always scrambling to come to power by hook or by crook. They are concerned about their self-interests or partisan benefits, grossly ignoring the interests of the country and people. This is one of the reasons why the country has not been able to steer clear of political instability. Even the majority government led by the then Communist Party of Nepal formed by the CPN-Maoist Centre and the UML could not last a full five-year term. 

The antagonism between the ruling and opposition parties has cost the country dear; the nation has lagged far behind in development. Our immediate neighbours– China and India – are making steady progress and have proved that they are economic behemoths in Asia. But Nepal is bogged down in political wrangling and mud-slinging. It is high time the ruling and opposition parties worked synergistically towards transforming the face of the country. This is the need of the hour.  


(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.)  

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