Democracy is the government of people, by the people and for the people. It is the most common form of the government in this world. In democracy, the opposition has a great role to play. In a parliamentary system of government the party or the group parties commanding majority forms the government and remains in power as long as it enjoys the confidence of popularly-elected houses. Regarding seating arrangement, the house is divided into two wings. On the right-hand side of the speaker the ruling party or the parties are allotted seats and in parliamentary terminology theses are called as treasury benches. While on the left-hand side of the speaker, the Opposition party members or parties are allotted seats.
Parties and group in either side have their own elected leaders. The Prime Minister is also the leader of the House, while the leader of the largest Opposition party enjoys the status of the leader of the Opposition in the House. The leader of opposition often raises the issue with the government, when he finds the government is not functional as per the will of the people. The government is free to determine the policies and programmes and make decision, so long as it retains power that is again subject to the approval of the House in a prescribed manner.
The Opposition parties play a very significant role in a democracy as representatives of the people who have returned them to the House to safeguard their interests. With this view, they criticize government in case the later ignores them or conceal facts and they resort to protestation in the House and at the public level. It counts very much for awareness among the people over the specific issues of national importance and raises levels of political consciousness among them. However, sometime, just for the sake of opposition the opposition even criticizes the right policy of the government. This proves very harmful for the democracy.
The opposition act as watch dog’ of a the system. In such countries where there is a two-party system in vogue, the Opposition party forms a ‘shadow cabinet’ to exercise vigil over the performance of the government. This is truer in case of United Kingdom. Two-Party system is also in vogue in United States of America. Since there is no parliamentary system of government, the Opposition party in the House of Representatives of the US Congress (the lower House of the Parliament) forms as many committees as the ruling party does and present their views over the policies and performance of the US administration in National Affairs before the official committees. Joint committees are also formed on important subjects or issues.
In countries where there is multiparty system in vogue, including India, the Opposition parties try to cooperate among themselves over particular issues. Arbitrary and despotic behavior of the government is checked by the Opposition parties demanding information and debate in the House. It is the Opposition in the Parliament that has a very important role of check and balance to play in the larger public interest and correct democratic practices.
Members of the Opposition parties are also included in the various committees attached to the respective ministries. All the measures of the government connected with the respective ministries are discussed and finalized by them. The Opposition plays a significant role in it through its recommendations.
Therefore, in shaping of the legislative measures, the Opposition has a say, or at least influences it. Still, it their recommendations are ignored, they have another chance when the Bill is introduced in the House and debated.
Opposition in Parliament enjoys a good status and the members of the House has a privilege of raising such issues that are more relevant to the cause of public ; particularly when the government overlooks them or conceals the facts related to them. It is very clear, therefore, that the role of Opposition parties is more vital to the healthy growth of democracy and in the larger public interest.
In extreme cases of conformation, if the government is all powerful to crush the Opposition, the later is potent enough to make a stir against the former and force them to exit by means of mass movement and agitation. Only then they can save the democracy. Plato has rightly said, “The punishment of wise man who refuse to take part in the affairs of the government, is to live under the government of unwise men.”