New hopes: on the new Vice-President of India and parliamentary democracy

The Vice-President should forge better ties between the Opposition and the executive 

Updated - August 15, 2022 03:17 pm IST

Published - August 09, 2022 12:20 am IST

Jagdeep Dhankhar will take oath as the 14th Vice-President of the country on Thursday, a day after the term of the incumbent Vice-President, M. Venkaiah Naidu, ends. As the candidate of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), he secured 528 votes of the 710 valid votes in the election held on Saturday. The Opposition candidate and Congress leader, Margaret Alva, got 182 votes, with the Trinamool Congress abstaining. Mr. Dhankhar’s election was a foregone conclusion, as the NDA had a clear majority in the electoral college, which was further reinforced by the support of the Biju Janata Dal and the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). Mr. Dhankhar, a Jat leader from Rajasthan, has had stints in Delhi and the State, in the Janata Dal and the Congress, before he shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2003. His appointment as the Governor of West Bengal catapulted him into the national limelight even as the BJP fought a pitched battle against the Trinamool Congress (TMC) to take over the reins of the State. A lawyer by training, he never pulled his punches, and combined political rhetoric and legal reasoning in frequent run-ins with the West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC. He faced charges of partisanship, but it all ended with the TMC mending fences with him ahead of his election as Vice-President; it obliquely supported him by abstaining from the polls. The TMC accused the Congress of not consulting it on Ms. Alva’s nomination but that claim is unconvincing, and the entire episode has exposed the chinks in the Opposition armour. The help that he got from the TMC added a slice of intrigue to what was otherwise a predictable victory.

The Vice-President is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, a critical role anytime, and more so in the present situation of extreme hostility between the Government and the Opposition. Parliamentary proceedings have been continuously stalled, Members of Parliament have been suspended and there has been a complete breakdown of communication between the ruling BJP and the Opposition parties. The Government has repeatedly bypassed the Rajya Sabha in the making of critical laws by arbitrarily classifying pieces of legislation as money Bills. The question is now before the Supreme Court. As Vice-President, Mr. Dhankhar will be expected to facilitate better relations between the ruling party and the Opposition parties and uphold the majesty and the constitutional role of the House. It is not an easy task in the current scenario, but his initial moves will be eagerly awaited by everyone invested in parliamentary democracy. Mr. Dhankhar’s elevation as Vice-President will certainly help the BJP politically. His role as Chairman should be more to protect the Opposition’s space, debates and ensure accountability of the executive. The inauguration of the new Vice-President should renew hopes for parliamentary democracy.

To read this editorial in Tamil, click here.

To read this editorial in Hindi, click here.

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