Include the opposition in executive decision making | Opinion – analysis
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a three-week blockade, if there was ever a time for the nation to unite, it is now. If there was ever a time for the political class to unite as one, it is now. If there was ever a time to put ideological disputes on hold, it is now. Why?
The Covid-19 challenge in its multiple dimensions (medical, economic and social) is potentially the largest the country has faced since Independence. Above all, it requires the unity and support of all sectors of society to see through what is likely to be a period of enormous disruption and difficulty. It would be catastrophic for people to witness a divided and contested political class seeking to earn points.
There is no doubt that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is by far the highest leader in the country. People trust him, as demonstrated in both the 2014 and 2019 elections. His call to people to observe a “janata curfew “(people’s curfew) was largely met; but the spirit of solidarity will have to show through the tense weeks and months to come. Negative political comments and consultations will inevitably raise doubts and even controversies that They can undermine popular motivation to obey government advice and accept the pain of what can be a prolonged blockade. Therefore, it is essential that the political class closes ranks. Modi and Opposition leaders must contact each other so that Overcoming the Covid-19 challenge is a national effort, which would not diminish, but would improve the position of all political leaders.
Parliament has adjourned the session. That is the right step, as as the country advanced towards a blockade, it would have been inappropriate to let the two Houses continue. However, consultations between national political leaders should continue through videoconferences. But that is not all. Can we jump into the imagination and think of Modi by associating some opposition leaders in executive capacity, not only to gain their expertise and experience, but also to conclusively demonstrate that the steps the government is taking are supported of the entire political class? ? That will be a demonstration of national will as nothing else will be.
Clearly, the country will have to rely on non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to stop Covid-19. Realism demands the acceptance that India’s medical support systems cannot be on the same level as those of advanced countries. There is no doubt that the authorities are taking, and will continue to take, all the necessary steps to mitigate the shortage. But there may be a time when difficult decisions need to be made at all levels. In such a situation, prudence demands that the political class also unite for this contingency. Therefore, it is necessary that the highest leaders of all political parties make a common appeal to the people for unity and solidarity and scrupulously follow government directives. This will increase popular morale.
The country has been through very difficult and controversial times recently, due to ideological differences over controversial laws. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is a case in point. While it is true that the government has explained its justification, and the law will be tested in the Supreme Court, the fact remains that the Muslim community continues to view it as a precursor to the National Register of Citizens (NRC). That has raised suspicions and fear to such an extent that Shaheen Bagh’s sit-in continued for so long. This is not a time to examine whether it was justified, but to instill confidence that everyone’s interests will be assured in the months ahead.
Social harmony has to be maintained. It may be under pressure, and the political class will have to address any questions that may arise. The Covid-19 challenge is obviously more than administrative and, therefore, with Modi at the forefront, an image backed by the reality of political cohesion must be transmitted to the people.
This will also help to face the great economic burden that society as a whole will have to bear. Modi correctly said that the poorest parts of society may have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden. They will have to be skillfully assisted. Right now, will Modi consider consulting a broad sample of economists to chart a path forward? This should include those who are married to the ideologies of the opposition so that people can once again see the political class uniting. India’s political class can be tested like never before if difficult scenarios unfold. Hopefully they will come with great success.
Vivek Katju is a former diplomat
The opinions expressed are personal.