In every democracy, all the parties cannot get majority seats in the Parliament. After every election, usually there will be one party which gets majority seats and one or more parties which get less seats. These parties which do not get majority seats are called Opposition Parties. The party which gets majority seats becomes the Ruling Party. The Opposition Parties sit in the legislature. The leader of the Opposition Party enjoys some privileges. The formation of electoral alliances among the opposition is an important ability to win seats in Parliament. In India, the opposition succeeded in forming a government at the centre in 1977.
The work of the Ruling Party is very important. It has to run the government, make policies, and look after the welfare of the people. All the powers mentioned in the Constitution are exercised by the Ruling Party. Anyhow the opposition party also functions in an effective manner. In some ways, the work of the Opposition Party is no less important than that of the Ruling Party.
In a democratic system, the people decide the government policies. This decision is given once in five years by electing a particular party as the Ruling Party. So till the next elections, there is no way of checking the work of the government. This work of checking the function of government is done by the Opposition Parties. Day to day work of the government cannot be checked by the electorate. To check the government from becoming authoritarian and to restrict its powers, the Opposition Parties keep a watch over them. It is mainly the duty of the Opposition Party to criticise the policies of the government if they affect the welfare of the citizens.
Opposition Parties have to see that the government does not take any action to destroy the rights of the citizens. When any Bill is passed, the Opposition Parties keep a watch over it to see that no harm is done to the citizens. If the Opposition Parties feel that any measure is a threat to the rights of the citizens, or that they are harmful to the country, they criticise the government inside the legislature.
Outside the legislature, the Opposition Parties attract the attention of the Press and report their criticism of the government policy in the newspapers. Sometimes Opposition Parties organise demonstrations and agitations against some actions of the government. When a Bill is discussed in the legislature, Opposition Parties not only criticise the Bill inside the legislature but also organise meetings to gather public opinion. In this way, the government is prevented from taking arbitrary decisions.
The Opposition Parties have the right to check the expenditure of the government also. When the Budget is presented in the Parliament, it is the duty of the Opposition Parties to check the weak points in the Budget. During the Question Hour, the Opposition Parties criticise the government generally. If the Opposition is able to point out the weaknesses of the Ruling Party, they use it to reduce the chances of the party from winning in the next election. The criticism of the Opposition Parties makes the Ruling Party correct its actions. Thus the Opposition Parties try to restrain the government from abusing its power.