Be not the Shadow but the Light

By Antonio V Francisco Fernandes

Recently the former MLA of Fatorda, Damodar Naik, came out with the idea of functioning like the shadow MLA of the constituency in which he lost the recent election.

Perhaps he borrowed this idea from the United Kingdom, where they have the concept of a shadow cabinet.

Now a shadow cabinet is in order, and we would do well to informally adopt this system in our country though not as a constitutional requirement. It should be done voluntarily by the opposition party or the opposition group that is willing to form the government in case the incumbent government falls any time during the tenure of the Legislature. Thus we can have the leader of the opposition as shadow prime minister or shadow chief minister, a shadow home minister, a shadow tourism minister, etc. This exercise will be beneficial to the state on two counts. First, there will be an alternative to the existing government with each shadow minister focusing on his shadow area of work, keeping a constant vigil with an eagle eye, developing insights and probable solutions. Thus he will be better prepared to take over whenever the mantle of ministerial leadership falls on his shoulders. Second, he can offer constructive criticism and keep the incumbent minister on his toes, pointing out the flaws in policies and the failures in practice.

There is a big difference between a shadow minister and a shadow legislator. While the former idea is good the latter is both bad and dangerous for democracy. This is because in a parliamentary democracy, the ministers hold office as long as they enjoy the confidence of the legislature. Whenever the ministry loses the majority in the legislature, it has to resign, and the president or governor has to make alternative arrangements, which include an invitation to the leader of the opposition to form the government. A leader of the opposition with a shadow cabinet would always be in a ready state to assume the reigns. But there is no such provision for shadow MP or MLA. He is elected for five years, and if his seat becomes vacant for any reason, the people of the constituency have to elect a new person. No shadow MLA, Mr. Naik.

I have elaborated on this topic because the idea that Naik has expressed may be sought to be practiced by either defeated candidates or future aspirants. We must allow the elected representative to function as our only representative for five years, as at present there is no right to recall. Laws can be made only by the elected legislators. Works should also be executed in consultation with them, whether they are members of the ruling party or of the opposition. Extra-constitutional centers of power should never be encouraged.

Once a candidate is elected, he represents all the people of the constituency, not only those who voted for him. The MP or MLA belongs to all, and should work for all. The defeated candidates and aspirants can always continue their social service, and offer their candidature when the next turn comes. As was done by Rohan Khaunte, who won from Porvorim after the exemplary social work during the last few years. Or Dr Hubert Gomes, who, however, lost gracefully in Benaulim inspite of his worthy social leadership. Opportunities to work for the betterment of the people and the area are plenty. There is so much darkness to overcome and so much light to share. Be not the shadow but the light.

As late Matanhy Saldanha told his niece Melissa Simoes, "winning or losing is not important but being in the midst of people and touching numerous lives … inspiring them." I’ll sign off quoting Elisabeth Kubler-Ross: People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.