The present government seems to be pressing all the right buttons to come back for a third term. They are projecting the prime minister as a powerful figure in the international arena, while also showing all welfare schemes at home stem from his office. They have used the ‘religion card’ extremely well, and have shown themselves whether truthfully or falsely, a party above corruption.

All’s fair in love or war, and I guess the same applies to politics, but an angle where they are seen wanting is their dialogue with dissent.

Here, they have no dialogue whatsoever, and this could be their Achilles heel.

In a democracy, your strength is recognised by the way you handle dissent, and unfortunately most powerful leaders ultimately fall because of a growing chorus of people saying their questions are not being heard, answered or met with a thundering silence.

Parliament was built for dialogue, and if not, the old building once decommissioned should not have been replaced by a newer, bigger one. “We don’t need a Parliament building, because once we have the mandate, we can do what we want,” should have been the cry of any victorious party after the elections, as those whose political parties had lost took the next train home.

No, the losers stay on in Parliament, their purpose now being to scrutinise and challenge continuously. That is their job. But to the present ruling party, this is anti-national and seditious, though truth be told, dissent is what they are being paid to do.

And dissent as a Supreme Court ruling has just said, is the right of every individual in our country. ‘Right to dissent, lawful’ ruled the honourable judges sternly.

Which makes dialoguing with dissent, essential.

Nobody in power likes dissent. As a parent, one cringes when our child stands up and tells us they do not agree with us. But how that disagreement is handled makes the same child either strong or resentful. When we are unable to have patience and understanding in explaining our actions to our children, we finally produce angry, resentful and unhealthy adults.

Today, there is resentment in the country about how dissent is handled. Disagreement with government policies either lands citizens in jail, has the ED knocking at their doors, or has mob fury unleashed.

Many years ago, a person from Coimbatore, who was President of an international organisation called the Round Table told me, “When an ordinary member during an AGM asks me a question, even if it is a stupid question, how I answer him, the respect I treat him or her with, is what the others in the room will observe and laud or nail me for!”

Wise words!

Though the present ruling party is pressing all the right buttons, they need to learn how to dialogue with dissent...!

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