In and out of unity

The winter session of Parliament saw an unprecedented unity of the Opposition parties against demonetization and a series of arbitrary acts of the Government to implement it. From TMC to CPM, from Congress to JD (U), all were united in articulating the distress of the common man that demonetization had caused. It was logical to expect that the unity would be maintained and further consolidated and widened after the Parliament session was over. However, the hope has been belied, at least for the present. Tuesday’s meet of Opposition parties held in New Delhi at the initiative of the Congress saw the CPM, NCP, JD (U), SP and BSP staying out. Some of them thought they had not been formally and individually invited. The CPM made it obvious that even on so vital an issue as demonetization, it would not budge from its no-truck-with-Mamata line.

The fissures in the Opposition camp will certainly gladden the hearts of those in the ruling party. They are already taking heart from the fact that “the people are nor protesting” The absence of violent protest is being interpreted as mass support for demonetization. This has an indirect message: to be noticed by the Government the people should resort to violence and destruction of public property. Then alone will the Government listen and act. This is unfortunate in a democracy where the government is expected to be sensitive to public feelings and sentiments. What the Government does not seem to realize is that the patience of the people is being stretched beyond endurance. When it breaks it will be a bad day for all concerned.

To prevent such an eventuality, it is necessary for the ruling party to be more sensitive to the sufferings of the people and for the Opposition parties to stand together and channelize public discontent along the path of peaceful protests and demonstrations. Violence will help the authorities to crush the movement. The Opposition has got a chance to prove its capacity of leadership, of farsightedness, of its organizing ability.  Shirking their responsibility to the people on some pretext or other will not spare them. As Benjamin Franklin once famously said: “If we do nor hang together, we shall surely hang separately.” Authoritarianism and arbitrary use of power can be effectively challenged and checked only through the unity of the people. The Opposition parties are expected to be conscious of their responsibility and present a united opposition to the powers that be.

Thursday, 29 December, 2016