ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Parliament amidst Pandemic

Situating the Opposition

A one-party dominant Parliament seldom witnesses effective opposition. A government with an absolute majority attempts to centralise powers in times of crisis leading to marginalisation of the opposition and legislature. A fragmented multiparty opposition blunts the impact of what could otherwise be brought to the parliamentary system in terms of legislation, accountability, oversight and scrutiny. What is the role of the legislature in the times of exigencies like a pandemic vis-à-vis a government? Amidst the impasse over the working of Parliament with abrupt disruptions and absence of reconciliatory avenues, how is the opposition–government relationship defined?

 

The working of a public institution in India is contingent upon political context, apart from being deeply interlinked with other vital institutions. Hence, the relationship between Parliament, executive (government) and the judiciary becomes significant to offer an understanding of the possibilities and limitations facing institutions like Parliament in India. The procedural dimensions of the working of any institution remain inseparable from the larger substantive concerns of democracy. The present juncture of politics, when the confrontation between government and opposition has become a constant amidst deeper judicialisation of politics, raises certain fundamental questions about the way Parliament has been marginalised.

The restoration of the plebiscitary character of democracy, which dominated politics through much of the 1970s and 1980s, has tilted the balance in favour of the executive. The marginalisation of Parliament given the numerical composition of the house as well as the fragmentation characterising the opposition parties has considerably weakened the space of opposition in raising concerns, influencing policies, and demanding scrutiny. Thus, the growing unrest and protest over substantive questions of farm legislations in recent times reflect profoundly on the growing wedge between the procedural working as seen in the passage of legislations and the substantive claims of democracy that are fundamental to the idea of the parliamentary system. Against this background, the current impasse in Parliament amidst the COVID-19 pandemic needs to be examined, while reflecting on the present position of the opposition.

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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