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Five Reasons Why a PM Should Retain DNA of Leader of Opposition

It’s rare for a prime minister to return to his office after serving an interim stint as leader of the Opposition.

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India has had 14 major and minor prime ministers, without counting Gulzarilal Nanda who was the acting PM twice.

Here’s a quick count for millennials: Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh, Chandra Shekhar, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh, and Narendra Modi.

Only one among them returned as prime minister after serving an interim stint as leader of the Opposition (LOP) in Parliament: Indira Gandhi! (Technically, Vajpayee could qualify, since he was PM for a mere 13 days in 1996, then LOP until 1997, and PM until 2004). And to my astonishment, over the last 80 years in the United Kingdom, only two prime ministers lost, became leader of the Opposition, and won back the premier’s office – the illustrious Winston Churchill and Harold Wilson!

So, there is an akashvani (celestial broadcast) being beamed at both the warriors, Prime Minister Modi and Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi in the upcoming Mahabharata (epic battle) of 2019: The politician who retains the DNA of an Opposition leader even as he ascends to the prime minister’s office, he need never become the leader of the Opposition again!

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Here are Five Reasons Why a Prime Minister Should Remain Like the Leader of Opposition

One, as soon as the LOP becomes the PM, bureaucrats encircle him, cutting off the prime minister’s engagement with freethinkers and professionals. He is tethered to Raisina Hill, lulled into a coma by ceremonial commitments which eat into critical time and attention. The PM begins to misread visibility for action, applause for endorsement, and an echo chamber for diverse feedback.

Two, as the LOP, he enjoys meeting critics, because the bulk of the barbs are aimed at his opponents. He actively seeks innovative ideas to handle crises. He reads editorials and critiques directly, as opposed to the PM who waits for a second-hand, curated summary to be fed to him.

Three, the LOP usually travels in commercial flights and through normal traffic jams. He lives in the real, imperfect world, while the PM is confined to a clean and orderly cocoon. The PM loses the power of native, tactile problem-solving abilities.

Four, the LOP is virtually a “buddy” for political colleagues and workers, across hierarchies and geographies. He is a general who bonds with troops, because he needs them to win imminent battles. But the PM is a remote icon guarded within concentric circles. Worse, the PM begins to believe that he permanently owns the State’s humongous architecture and can dispense with political assets.

Finally, the LOP is forever short of cash and resources. He has no option other than to empower colleagues and stretch each rupee. But the PM can bust the bank even on tiny political campaigns. His answer to every defiance is to unleash vindictive power. He can use State secrets, tap communication channels, subpoena the weak into sneaking or lying. Instead of seeking compromise and kinship, he is tempted to browbeat into submission. He becomes stiff and arrogant, choosing to snap rather than bend…

And so he inevitably snaps – remember Winston Churchill and Indira Gandhi. But the PM who remembers his own mortality as the LOP shall manage to stay on as the prime minister – such is the irony of this supreme office in a parliamentary democracy.

(Hey lady, what makes you laugh? Do you laugh at sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, or other 'sanskari' stereotypes? This Women's Day, join The Quint's Ab Laugh Naari campaign. Pick up that beer, say cheers, and send us photographs or videos of you laughing out loud at buriladki@thequint.com.)

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