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Role of Opposition in Democracy

Role of Opposition in Democracy



Opposition in Democracy Meaning:

  • Opposition is the largest non-government party or coalition of parties who are elected representatives of peoples, who are not members of the treasury benches and play an important role of questioning government decisions and actions and also raised matter of public importance in functioning political democracy.


Role and functions of opposition in democracy:

1- Constructive criticism of the Govt. policies, plans, bills, law and programs, and make the Govt. to work in accordance with social welfare and public good.

2- Main role of the opposition is to question the ruling Govt. and hold them accountable to peoples.

3- Opposition carry the suggestions of the civil society to the parliament/ ruling Govt.

4- Opposition should not criticize each and every decision of the ruling Govt. but its support is necessary to the decisions which are good and in public interest.

5- Constructive opposition expose the weakness of the ruling Govt.  

6- Opposition is the guardian of the public interest and remind the ruling Govt. its duty towards the people who elected them to power.

7- Opposition and the ruling party are the two faces of the same coin.

8- Opposition provides checks and balances in the functioning of democracy e.g., members of opposition included in various parliamentary committees.

9- Members of the opposition who are members of parliamentary committees have a further opportunity to scrutinize new legislation as part of the committee process.

10- Opposition may utilize the media to reach the electorates with its views. 


Malfunctioning of opposition in parliamentary proceedings:

  • Fragmented opposition: Degree of fragmented opposition has consequences for the electoral performance of the parliamentary proceedings.
  • Agenda for discussion: The Govt. alone has the right to set the agenda for discussion but some times opposition trying to distract discussion and raised other issues in house which creates hurdles in time management.
  • Interruption: Interjection by a member during the speech of another member/discussion on a listed item.
  •  Disruption: A longer break in parliamentary proceedings, encompasses an undesired statement, action and gesture that delay the transaction of business in house, also violates the dignity of house e.g., showing placards, shouting of slogans, entering the well of the house, and adjournment motions.
  •  Walk-outs : Constitutes a legitimate form of protest to show their disagreement with ruling Govt.




Leader of opposition (LOP):  

  • LOP is only the leader for the time being of the Chief Opposition Party (2nd main party temporarily in a minority), who are ready to form an alternative govt. when time arises. The process of parliamentary govt. will break down if there is absence of mutual tolerance. Meeting of the LOP with the Prime Minister/ Ministers, helps to remove barriers in parliamentary proceedings to reach on constructive solutions. LOP with the helps of other opposition members demands debates, watches for encroachment on the rights if minorities.
  • LOP can develop his own proposals and policies without the power to implement them.
  • In India LOP on Lower House and the Counsel of States are accorded statutory recognition. Recommendation of PAGE committee suggest that the leader of the largest recognised opposition party should be recognised as the LOP.


Role of opposition in various parliamentary committees:

1- Public Accounts Committee: is a committee of elected members of parliament to check expenditures bill and the Audit report of CAG after it is laid in the Parliament. PAC consists of not more than 22 members. PAC is headed by the LOP. Presently Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary is chairperson of PAC.

2- Standing Committees: is a committee consisting of MPs. These committees constituted as per "Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business" of Parliament. Members of opposition who are nominated in these committees give their contribution via raising issues related to general public and good,

3- Ad-hoc committees: are formed for specific purpose such as Select and Joint Committees on Bills.


Measures to strengthen role of opposition in enriching democracy:

1- Provisions related to give right to hold ruling party accountable instead of having to resort to disruptions of the house may introduce in rules for conduct of business in the Parliament.

2- There should be provisions to answer every question of the opposition's parties,

3- "Opposition days" is a parliamentary oversight mechanism under which certain days has to be allotted for the opposition parties to set the agenda of the house.

4- Presently Parliamentary time is controlled by ruling party which, as a rule, does not give sufficient time for opposition to seek matters of public importance.



Functional parliamentary democracy completely depends upon political maturity of the elected representatives which make check and balances on the Executive and Legislature, and also fixed the accountability of the executive to improve the governance. In India as a parliamentary democracy a strong opposition is indispensable in a modern democracy.