No-trust motion: Widening cracks in the NDA

| | in Oped

With allies showing open disillusionment and alienation with the BJP-led NDA Government, it is no longer about numbers, it is about the perception quotient, which the BJP can afford to ignore only at a political cost. The party needs to act before it’s too late

Who thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is touted as a strong leader leading an expanding Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will face a no-confidence motion after four years?  When Modi rode to South Block in 2014, the BJP believed that the party and its leaders are invincible and is now enthused by successive poll results, which enabled the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ruling in 21 States. So, the first no-confidence motion brought against the Modi Government by the two regional parties Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress (YSR Congress) from Andhra Pradesh this week has come as a shock to the BJP cadres.

No-confidence motion in a democracy is a strong tool for the Opposition. Socialist leader Acharya Kripalani brought the first no-confidence motion against the Jawaharlal Nehru Government in August 1963. The last was against Dr Manmohan Singh Government in 2008 on the Indo-US nuclear deal. A no-confidence motion brought down the NDA Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee by just one vote in 1999. Interestingly, Indira Gandhi faced a record number of 15 no-confidence motions and her son Rajiv Gandhi with such brute majority also faced it in 1987.

So, why this sudden move to attack the Modi Government? The immediate provocation was the NDA ally TDP quitting the alliance on the issue of granting a special status to Andhra Pradesh as promised during the bifurcation of the State in 2014. Unable to counter the rival YSR Congress proposing to bring a no-confidence motion against the Modi Government on this issue, the ruling TDP also has given notice.  Sensing an opportunity to hit the Modi Government, several opposition parties including the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) have come forward to support the motion.

Secondly, the Opposition feels that the timing is right for such a motion with cracks appearing in the NDA. Though the BJP had stunned everyone with its spectacular victory in the North-East last month, the subsequent losses in the recent by-elections in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have emboldened the disgruntled Opposition to attack the Government.

The fact that the efforts for the  Opposition unity are being pursued by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao shows how the Opposition is sensing the opportunity. Two other regional satraps — the Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) chief Mayawati have also got a boost after the alliance won Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies to take on the BJP. Sitting in jail, the RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has had the last laugh in Bihar bypoll results.

Thirdly, although there is no threat to the Modi Government as the BJP and its allies still have 314 votes, the Opposition wants to dent his image within the country and abroad. The anti-BJP forces would not like to lose any opportunity to embarrass the Modi regime. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar has said recently, “I want to tell the Congress and other opposition members that there is confidence inside and outside the House. That’s why the BJP is ready to face the no-confidence motion”.

Fourthly, the other disgruntled NDA allies are not that happy with the BJP leaders. TDP is the second NDA ally, after former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, to part ways with the NDA in less than a month.  Significantly, after the exit of the TDP, the NDA is not in power in any State in the south. Another long-term ally Shiv Sena has already announced that it will not fight the 2019 Lok Sabha polls with the BJP. The Akali Dal too has been blunt with the BJP and had conveyed that the BJP needs to deal with the SAD better.

What made the TDP embolden to take on the powerful BJP? The TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu has realised that he had to face the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls without fulfilling most of the dreams he had sold to the electorate. So, what can be a better way than making the Modi Government the villain? TDP rival YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress also saw an opportunity to gain some brownie points and jumped into the fray by bringing the no-confidence motion. However, Naidu has effectively stolen the thunder of Reddy and also upset the plans of the BJP, as even YSRC can’t align with BJP at this juncture.

The Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that he would grant a special status to Andhra if Congress were voted to power in 2019. There is no doubt that cracks have appeared in the NDA.

The BJP’s expansion plans in the south have also hit a break. Its move to help the EPS and OPS factions in Tamil Nadu to come together hasn’t been a success. A win the upcoming Karnataka polls will go a long way in boosting the morale of the BJP workers. The BJP has to address the concerns of the allies if it means to continue the coalition dharma.  After all, the BJP has come a long way from an ‘untouchable party’ in the early 80s to 33 NDA allies today.

The no-confidence motion might not even see the daylight as the House is yet to take up the issue because Tamil Nadu MPs are demanding the setting up of the Cauvery board and will not allow the House to run. Neither the Government nor the Opposition is keen to resolve this and ultimately it might be a wasted session.

(The writer is a senior political commentator and syndicated columnist)

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