The emotional farewell accorded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also leader of the House in Lok Sabha, to Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, was a rare moment to savour in these divisive times. Ordinary citizens accustomed to scenes of bedlam and name calling in Parliament and legislative assemblies, would surely wish to see more of such bonhomie and bipartisanship between netas. Elected houses as the abode of debate and discussion becoming identified with perpetual bickering has greatly hurt the cause of democracy.
Azad, late President Pranab Mukherjee and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar count among the top opposition netas Modi often recalls on warm terms. All three have a reputation for pragmatism, bridging divides and refraining from personal attacks. In the era of coalition politics, those skills were valued and utilised well. But even a single party government cannot afford to brush aside the opposition as the impasse over farm reforms highlights. The laws are badly needed to help farmers without MSP support benefit from market reforms.
The dangerous take-no-prisoners approach that’s become fashionable in politics – one reason for its dominance these days is that populism demands seeing a political opponent as the enemy – must give way to more consensual approaches. Here, BJP as the dominant national party must take the onus for nurturing a more harmonious politics. Such an approach can bring on board parties whose opposition isn’t ideological but driven more by extreme political polarisation. On coming to Delhi in 2014, PM Modi articulated the principle of cooperative federalism drawing upon his experiences as Gujarat CM. In the months ahead, this spirit of political cooperation and his personal outreach will be crucial to resolving the farm agitation, smoothly disinvesting from non-strategic PSUs, and taking other critical steps forward for the country.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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