India’s Political Vacuum and its Implications
India today can be said to be in a state of political vacuum as there exists a state of emptiness in India’s political space in the absence of an effective political opposition to the ruling Congress Party. India to be a vibrant largest democracy in the world imperatively needs an equally vibrant main political opposition party to ensure that the ruling party does not become politically wayward. The Congress Party cannot objectively be blamed for the political vacuum. India’s political vacuum can be blamed on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not having been able to convince the Indian electorate that it is a viable political alternative to the Congress Party, if not as a ruling party but at least as a strong opposition political party. Such a state of political vacuum carries a number of implications for India’s governance and the conduct of India’s foreign policy and hence for India’s national security as a whole.
In terms of India’s political governance the political vacuum that exists today breeds political arrogance and political insensitivity in the ruling party. This was recently noticeably visible in the intemperate outbursts during a debate in the Parliament of the Congress Party’s most senior leader Pranab Mukherjee on points on price rises raised by Opposition leaders. This was not a solitary instance. In the absence of a strong political opposition this trend can be expected to grow.
Again in terms of political governance, the lack of an effective and vocal political opposition in Parliament results in a lack of debate and political scrutiny of the implementation of government policies and election promises. Fortified by the feeling that no effective political opposition exists the ruling party revels in unilateral political decision-making on matters of national importance without bothering to evolve a political consensus and thereby contribute to a more widely participative political democratic process.
In terms of India’s foreign policy conduct the existing political vacuum has led the Indian Prime Minister to be virtually dismissive of Indian public opinion sensitivities especially when it comes to policy approaches towards Pakistan and China which singly and jointly continue to destabilize India’s security environment. Under pressure from the United States the Congress Government has recently withdrawn nearly 30,000 troops from Kashmir just to please the United States which wanted this concession to assuage the Pakistan Army Generals. The same pressures prompted the Indian Government to side take positions on Iran which as an India-friendly country can misconstrue as unfriendly.
The spin-off from the preceding is that India’s national security interests get comprised due to the personal predilections of the Prime Minister and his propensity to please the United States at any cost. The decision on inducting 126 combat fighter planes for the Indian Air Force, a void which could militarily cost India heavily in any forthcoming conflict, is seemingly being delayed by the political leadership’s inclination to place the order on the United States and an in-house opposition not to disturb the existing pattern of military inventories which is predominantly Russian and the Russian offer being more economical for their latest advanced combat fighter planes.
The Indian public would have expected that the BJP as the main political Opposition Party would mount a concerted public debate both within the two Houses of Parliament and in the public domain calling the ruling Congress Party to account on issues of governance, foreign policy and national security. Sadly the only political battles that the BJP seems to be fighting is the war within which is debilitating both for the BJP and for India as a whole.
India cannot afford a political vacuum in its political governance, foreign policy and national security, especially when it is engulfed by an embattled security environment. The BJP must get its act together and the ruling Congress Party should strive for bipartisan consensus on foreign policy and national security issues.
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Dr. Subhash Kapila
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