Stop ruling us for god’s sake; start governing us for our sake

Make laws you want, but through discussion and deliberation

In every election the voters elect a government. This time, they elected an opposition. They also elected a government—not to rule them, but to govern them.

First about the opposition. Paul Harrington said, “Democracy can be measured on the existence of an opposition,” but India’s democracy has been working without one for a decade. Indeed we had men and women in Parliament who carped, cried and quarrelled with the regime, but rarely held the regime to account. They were mere critics of the regime, and not a parliamentary opposition. Now the voters have elected a formidable opposition.

Now about the government. For ten years, Team Narendra Modi has been ruling India brooking no opposition, save once from the farmers who didn’t like the laws that the rulers had made. Everything else—from note ban of an eight-year-old November night to the rejig of the penal laws in the recent months—was implemented or legislated with complete disregard to criticism.

Illustration: Deni Lal Illustration: Deni Lal

For ten years, India was being ruled. Now the people have spoken: stop ruling us, and start governing us.

All the same, the election was an endorsement of the Narendra Modi regime. People want him to govern them and lead them into Viksit Bharat, but not by riding roughshod over the critics. Make the laws you want by all means, but make them through discussion, deliberation and debate—people have said. Voters have also cut down the personality cult that was growing around the leader. Often it had looked the election was being fought around one man. The opposition, too, contributed to this. If the BJP sought votes in his name and for what he has done, the opposition sought votes against him and for what he has not done or done wrong.

Wasn’t jobs an issue? Yes, but not whether jobs were created or lost, but whether Modi gave jobs or threw people out of jobs. Wasn't corruption an issue? Yes, but not whether there was more corruption or less corruption under Modi, but whether Modi hunted the corrupt or sent the corruption-hunters to raid his enemies. Farm distress was an issue—not whether farmers were better off now or worse, but whether Modi had sought to betray the farmers with his three laws. National security was an issue—not whether India has got strategically stronger or weaker, but whether Modi had short-changed the Agniveers into becoming short-term mercenaries. Constitution was an issue—whether Modi was seeking to uphold it or undermine it.

Modi was the trumpcard for the BJP to seek a third term to rule India—his leadership, his reforms, his diplomacy, his economic management, his vaccine scheme, his reachout to the people, his running of the government, his vishwaguru status. He was also the sole target for the opposition—not the health minister for the Covid goof-ups, not the defence minister for the Agneepath scheme, not the law minister for the badly-drafted farm laws, not the parliamentary affairs minister for getting them passed without debate, not even the speaker and the upper house chairman for expelling the critics.

The whole discourse was over—Did Modi this? Didn't Modi this? Was Modi this? Wasn't Modi this? Will Modi this? Won't Modi this? Modi this, or Modi that? Modi here, or Modi there? Modi then, or Modi now?

Anyway, the message from the people is clear: stop ruling us for god’s sake; start governing us for our sake. Talk to your allies, take the opposition into confidence, and make good laws through discourse, discussion, and debate.

Let parliamentarism prevail.