The Congress along with other opposition parties moved a no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. Admitting the notice, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said that it will be taken up for discussion on Friday. "The discussion will be held for the full day, followed by voting on it," Mahajan announced in the House.
She also said that there will be no Question Hour on that day and the House would have no other business, barring the discussion on the no-confidence motion.
Members from the Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and the National Congress Party (NCP) among others moved no-confidence motion notices but the Speaker said that TDP's Kesineni Srinivas would move his motion as his party was the first to raise it.
Mahajan had not accepted notices for a similar motion during the Budget Session, which was washed out due to the continued uproar by TDP, TRS and some Opposition parties demanding that government agree to the motion.
While Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that the largest party be allowed to move the motion, Mahajan said that as per rules, the party which raises the motion first, gets to move it. "It's not a question of big party, small party... Those who brought the no-confidence motion, I read all the rules. The person who first brought the motion, has to be called first," Mahajan said.
Replying to a question on the lack of the numbers to win the no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government in the parliament, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi shot back, “Who says we don’t have the numbers?”
Sonia was talking to an English news channel.
On the first day of the Monsson session of the parliament - in the backdrop of heightened political battle between Modi government and the Opposition, Sonia’s response assumes significance as the Opposition is trying hard to gather the number.
Important to recall, fifteen years ago, in 2003, as leader of Opposition, Sonia Gandhi had moved a no-confidence motion against then BJP-led government, but it was defeated by a mile.
Banking upon exceptions and anti-government feelings, opposition parties are hoping to get support from unexpected corners such as Biju Janta Dal (BJD), which had distanced itself from the BJP but has not decided on whether it will vote or abstain.
Analysts feel Sonia Gandhi’s comment will certainly help the opposition to gather numbers. However, the government will easily prove the majority.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar had already said the government will win the motion it as it enjoys a two-third majority in the Lok Sabha. Many believe, government will try to use the opportunity by giving it an electoral twist.
“During the debate, number of the speakers from the treasury benches will be higher than the number of the speakers from the opposition camp. Clearly, they will have an edge over the opposition as they will be given more air-time,” said an analyst.
Leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, had expressed similar thoughts. He had told mediapersons a day before start of the session, “Opposition used to have greater share in the coverage. But, today when we stand to raise our issues, camera does not turn to us.”
Opposition benches had expected the government to take a while before agreeing to a no-trust motion and use the issue till then as ammunition. But government managers were keen to avoid giving the impression that they were running away from a floor test despite a large majority.
BJP plans to paint Congress and other opposition parties as an opportunistic alliance driven by no ideology other than ousting Modi. NDA speakers can be expected to highlight contrasts from the UPA tenure by way of improved pace of development and strong measures to clean up the economy by promoting digitisation, insolvency laws, linking welfare benefits to Aadhaar and direct transfers and measures to boost farm incomes.
The opposition, though aware that numbers are against it, is looking to use the debate to attack the Modi government over several issues and showcase unity among non-NDA parties. “We will raise issues such as price rise, rising intolerance, poor implementation of GST, harm caused by demonetisation and the distress caused to farmers and inadequacy of the new MSP regime,” said a leader.
Launching an attack on Modi in a televised debate which should fetch eyeballs nationally may have psychological benefits too.
Rising stridency over "communal" issues — which has seen BJP accuse Rahul Gandhi of stating that Congress is a "Muslim party" at a meeting with Muslim intellectuals, drawing a sharp response denying the remark and an assertion that the party stands for the last man in the line mark — can be expected to be reflected in the House in full measure.
BJP managers are looking at "unaligned" regional parties to weaken the impression of an anti-BJP front and NDA constituents met to consider strategy to post a strong tally and also to deplete opposition numbers. “The party did not want to give the impression that it is avoiding a floor test,” a BJP leader said.
"The party has issued a whip for all MPs to be present on Thursday and Friday as we are confident of winning comprehensively," parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said. Other leaders added that party managers would see if absentions reduced the opposition numbers while prospects of cross voting are slim.The numbers:
The numbers, of course, back the Modi-led government. With 273 BJP members, along with 39 allies, the NDA government has a total of 312 members - giving its a comfortable majority with 57% of the vote.
Exuding confidence of having the numbers, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said that the government is prepared to face the no-confidence motion brought in by several parties. "The entire country has confidence on Prime Minister Narendra Modi," he said.
Grant of special status to Andhra Pradesh, lynchings, atrocities against women and dalits and dilution of a law meant for Scheduled Caste are among the issues on which the opposition parties have brought in the no-confidence motion against the government.Different strokes:
TDP's motion is against, what it says, the NDA's non-fulfilment of its promise to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh.Saying no to no-confidence:
While the first no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha was introduced by Acharya Kriplani in 1963 against the Jawaharlal Nehru-led government, a majority of such motions have been symbolic since they were against government headed by a majority party.Coalition faultlines:
No-confidence motions have only worked when coalition governments were at the helm at the Centre, the first such successful motion being by Congress leader Y B Chavan in July 1979 against then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, who resigned after the loss.The casualties
: Only three Prime Ministers after Morarji Desai have been booted out by a no-confidence motion—V P Singh in 1990, H D Deve Gowda in 1997 and Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1999—and all three headed coalition governments with their own party in a minority.
What's the point: The no-confidence motion will serve as a test case for opposition unity ahead of next year's General Election as the TDP has asked other political parties to support to their motion, besides serving as an opportunity to engage in a debate with the government to highlight its failures when the motion comes up for discussion tomorrow.
Meanwhile, three bills were passed in both houses of the Parliament on the first day of the Monsoon Session: the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Second Amendment) Bill, 2017, which was passed in the Lok Sabha, while the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill and Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property (Amendment) Bill, 2017 were passed by the Rajya Sabha.