The BJP-led Government of India, for the first time in four years, faced a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha last week. The motion, as a matter of fact, should have come up for discussion in the last session of Parliament in March this year.
This Speaker, however, did not allow the motion to be taken up on the ground that the house was not in order following disturbances caused by some political parties which, incidentally, were the same ones which supported the BJP subsequently in the no-confidence motion.
There were those who felt that the ruling party manoeuvered things to result in a situation on account of which the entire session went to waste. Consequently, the message went out that the government was afraid of the discussion that might have ensued had the motion been admitted.
Critics of the government alleged that the Prime Minister is adept only at making others hear his ‘man ki baat,’ but not good at listening to what others try to tell him, and that he was doing the same thing even in Parliament.
Another opinion that was heard at that time in circles that study the political situation was that disgruntled elements within the ruling party had decided to send a signal to the high command that they would utilise the opportunity presented by the no-confidence motion to demonstrate their strength in their bid to rein Modi in.
This reading was based on the view that the dissidents felt that the party leadership had become too centralised, that the culture of collective leadership had been given the go-by, and that, therefore, in the Parliamentary elections due in 2019, the party would lose at least 50 seats.
The feeling was that, as a result, the NDA would be forced to seek the assistance of other parties to form a government in that, therefore, the BJP would, perforce, mend its ‘big brother’ attitude. That school of thought further maintained that, in the situation envisaged, an alternative would have to be found to the present leader of the party. But, since finding an alternative would not be easy, it would be necessary for the leadership to change its ways which, really, is the objective of the dissatisfied section of the party.
It would be unwise to dismiss the potential danger of dissidence within a party utilising a no-confidence motion, no matter how nascent and insignificant it might be. It will be remembered that, the Congress party had tabled a no-confidence motion, in 1979, more or less for the sake of form.
The move gradually gained strength until the four major parties that comprised the Janata party, which were earlier busy fighting each other, gradually started drifting towards the opposition ranks. George Fernandez defended the government valiantly one day and, the very next day, switched sides and declared that he would vote against it! Finally, the Janata government which had come into being on a wave of tremendous hopes and expectations collapsed.
The Congress party, even as it made a show of extending support to Charan Singh, pulled the rug from under his feet within no time. Charan Singh continued as a caretaker Prime Minister for a few months. In 1980 elections, the Congress party returned to power with a substantial majority. It is alleged by this section also that it was to avoid such a contingency that the no-confidence motion earlier tabled did not see the light of day.
It is hardly possible for the general public to understand the degree of truth or otherwise in such opinions and readings. However, if the public were to form an opinion that the government is running scared from a possible no-confidence motion, then, surely, the ruling party would suffer a loss of prestige. As it is, the BJP has lost in a few by-elections and barely managed victory in its stronghold Gujarat.
And the opinion is gaining strength among journalistic circles that the proposal for simultaneous polls is being put forth by the central government, largely, on account of the fear of defeat in ensuing assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. The BJP clearly hopes that the charisma of Prime Minister Modi will offset the relatively lackluster images of its Chief Ministers in those states.
It was against this backdrop that the BJP bravely faced the motion this week. It allowed the opposition leaders. Then the ministers replied followed by the PM. After 12 hours’ discussion, the motion was put to vote and it categorically proved the rumors that there was dissidence in BJP were baseless. Amit Shah has once again proved his organising capacity and micro monitoring skills. On Wednesday, 32 BJP MPs were not available in Delhi, but by Saturday, he could manage to bring all but two of them to town. In fact, two MPs were brought on stretchers. One of the absentee BJP MPs, Kirti Azad was abroad and another was seriously ill.
8-member Shiv Sena, partner in NDA abstained from voting, reducing NDA strength from 310 to 292. But BJP could manage 33 ADMK MPs to vote in its favour thus getting 325 finally, which means 70% of 451, the strength in the parliament. UPA has 63 MPs and others have 156, but ultimately only 126 votes were cast in favor of the motion. It meant BJP could close all its ranks, besides convincing certain opposition parties to act in its favour.
While the defeat of the motion was undoubtedly a morale booster for the BJP, the important point to note is that it bodes well for the country. Right from the man in the streets to the captains of industry, the feeling that a stable government is in place in the hands of a strong political party provides a sense of confidence and assurance. Weakness never conduces to good governance. External relations suffer and internally, inefficiency and incompetence creep into the administrative machinery.
While this principle always applies, it is particularly relevant in the context of the elections being held in Pakistan. It appears that the anti-Indian feeling is the main plank of political canvassing there. Therefore, any perception that the government’s position in India is weak can put crazy ideas in the minds of new rulers and create complications for both the countries.
By defeating no-confidence motion hands down, Modi has sent a strong and unequivocal signal that India has a government that is robust and stable, is most opportune, as it fills the people the minds of the people of the country with faith and hope. This, indeed, is most welcome.
There is another issue that requires to be noted in this context. The productivity in Lok Sabha is less than 25%. The BJP-led government in Uttar Pradesh government is intending to send its employees home who crossed 50 years of age and have been found to be working at less than full capacity. It is indeed essential that, before such an approach is also applied to Members of Parliament, the ruling party alerts its ranks and ensures that Parliament is allowed to run smoothly in the future.
The concessions announced in the administration of the GST after the recent discussions have given a lot of relief to the general public. Discussions of such nature always result in public good and bring a good name to the government. Prime Minister Modi is a gifted orator but somewhat reticent in Parliament. And he has a sharp understanding of administrative issues together with the ability to present issues clearly and persuasively. If he can spend a little more time on his speeches in the houses of Parliament, he will create an enormous impact in the whole country and assure the common man that his aspirations are being taken care of.