Speaker Sumitra Mahajan admitted an Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion against the BJP-led government in Lok Sabha Wednesday, the very first day of the monsoon session of Parliament, and in the process, ended the standoff that had washed out the Budget session when the BJP appeared reluctant to debate such a motion.
On Friday, the Lok Sabha will start debating the no-confidence motion, the first in 15 years. Going by the arithmetic in the House which currently has 535 members, the BJP-led NDA is expected to defeat the motion.
The debate, however, allows the Opposition a chance to corner the government on several issues ranging from mob lynching to safety of women, Jammu and Kashmir to alleged dilution of the SC/ST law, plight of farmers to wary investors.
The ruling party too gets an opportunity to build a narrative in the run-up to crucial assembly elections later this year and the 2019 general elections.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the government is ready to face the no-confidence move and win as it enjoys two-thirds majority in Lok Sabha. The entire country, he said, has confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Outside the House, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi told reporters: “Who says we don’t have the numbers?”.
Earlier, the Speaker informed the members: “The House will take up the debate (on the motion) on Friday, July 20th. The discussion will be held for the full day, followed by voting on it.”
In the morning, Modi had made it clear: “If any political party or any member wants a discussion on any issue, the government is ready.” The more extensive the discussion in Parliament, the better it is for the country, he said, adding that good suggestions will help his government in decision-making.
The BJP has 273 members in Lok Sabha and, with its allies, the NDA has 314 minus the Speaker. BJP leaders said the defeat of the no-trust motion will be a morale-boost for the party ahead of the elections. The AIADMK, which has 37 members, is likely to back the government but the 20-member BJD has not yet clarified its stance.
The no-confidence motion is already being considered a test of the Grand Alliance against the BJP, and of the cohesion in the NDA. If the Opposition manages to stand united, irrespective of ideological and political differences, both the Prime Minister and BJP can reiterate that “hatred of Modi” unites the Opposition.
While the Congress, TDP, CPM, NCP and RSP members gave notices for an adjournment motion, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan admitted the notice given by TDP MP Kesineni Srinivas. In the Budget session, the TDP as well as other parties had given no-confidence motion notices but the Speaker had maintained that the House needed to be in order first for the motion to be considered.
This will be the first no-confidence motion to be debated in Lok Sabha in 15 years — in 2003, the then Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi had moved a no-trust motion against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government but it was defeated. The Opposition was protesting Prime Minister Vajpayee’s decision to re-induct George Fernandes as Defence Minister after he quit over an alleged defence corruption scandal.
In July 2008, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to move a trust motion after withdrawal of Left support to the Congress-led UPA. The UPA government won the trust motion.
In the last Budget session, the BJP appeared hesitant to face the debate on the no-confidence motion moved by the TDP after it walked out of the NDA protesting denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Opposition parties, including the Congress, had rallied, raising the issues of alleged irregularities in the banking sector and the Nirav Modi-PNB scandal.