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On May 8, 2015, the Naga Peoples’ Front led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland government became an ‘opposition-less government’ in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. After inducting three cabinet ministers, three advisors in the status of cabinet rank and nine parliamentary secretaries into the ministry, the Nagaland Chief Minister was quoted in the media stating that, “The dream to have a government without opposition has come true. It is an achievement.”
In the backdrop of divisive state electoral politics, this unprecedented development was received with cautious but curious optimism. It provided a momentary opportunity to broaden the imagination and anticipate possibilities for the better.
However, twenty months later, that cautious optimism has been belied and prospects to maximize the political consensus in facilitating an inclusive growth in Nagaland have gone awry. The current crisis is a symptom of the state government’s failure to seize a wonderful opportunity to be a harbinger of responsible governance.
Having established its opposition-less status with no other political power to challenge its decision, the government made a cardinal error by side-stepping the process and principle of accountability. With no opposition, the mechanism for maintaining checks and balances became fragile and the democratic space for critically engaging in dialogue over policy matters became non-existent. This blatant lack of accountability is reflected by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly’s brief and hurried sessions during this timeframe.
The lack of accountability and transparency resulted in a breach of public trust and the eventual break-down of communication between the political power and the people. The people were relegated to powerless spectators since they were no longer active participants in the government’s decision-making processes. As a result, people were also no longer fully aware of decisions being taken at the state’s highest level of political power.
With no opposition in the legislative assembly the opposition-less government exercised its political power with impunity. Furthermore, since the government was blinded by the arrogance of power it tried to power its way through without adequate discussions and awareness, thereby, leading to a series of errors in judgement. This situation has exposed the government’s lack of foresight as evidenced in the way it reacted to the anti-corruption movement, non-payment of teacher’s salary, women reservation, municipal elections and other issues of public interest.
The lessons gathered from this experience so far indicate that some of these policy-related problems could have been addressed and resolved if only the legislative assembly had engaged itself with the public through open dialogue and discussion.
Now it will have to contend with the people, a dissenting public, who have assumed the role of an opposition. Invariably, the government is caught in a catch-22 situation in which there are no real winners.