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No Confidence Motion : A JOINT POLL CAMPAIGN, By Dr S Saraswathi, 27 July 2018 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 27 July 2018

No Confidence Motion


By Dr S Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


In the realm of gauging the relative strength of political parties before the next General Elections, the No-Confidence Motion by the TDP last week has drawn maximum public attention in recent times. As a political event of immense significance, it has best portrayed the existing mood of various parties to join one another to fight a common enemy or stick together for survival or take an undecided or neutral position so as to manifest its independence.


Remember, in this era of alliances and coalitions, party positions are as important as voters’ choice. The impact of the motion and speeches seems to have fallen more on the Opposition than on the ruling alliance at the Centre, contrary to expectations in many quarters. Still, political lessons, it has yielded are useful to both sides to help build and organise their camps better for contesting Lok Sabha polls.


Undoubtedly, it was an opportunity for the opposition parties to enumerate the failures of the government and for the ruling NDA to report its achievements -- both at the expense of the government and that too close to next elections. That way, the debate for around 12 hours with about 40 speakers, was important for all parties as an opportunity to open their election campaign on a most prestigious platform.   


It is after a lapse of 15 years, the Lok Sabha was seized with a No-Confidence Motion. The first such motion was moved by Acharya Kripalani in 1963 against Nehru government immediately after the disastrous India-China War. Indira Gandhi faced 15 No Confidence motions and   Narasimha Rao’s minority government three, but survived. Only one led to the resignation of the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai in 1979 leading to the decline of the Janata Party. Vajpayee lost a “trust vote” he moved by one vote in 1999 which is different from “no trust” motion of opposition parties.


Two Prime Ministers lost power yielding place to another coalition government on account of withdrawal of “outside support” on which they depended. One was that of VP Singh in 1989 losing BJP’s support on the Ram Mandir issue, and the other was United Front government headed by Deve Gowda on withdrawal of Congress support in 1997.


Of the 534 members in this Lok Sabha, 325 voted against the motion (10 more than NDA strength), and 126 for it. Both BJD and TRS, with 18 and 11 members respectively, staged a walk out, the former commenting that neither the UPA nor the NDA benefited Odisha and the debate had no relevance to the State, and the latter saying it had no reason to support the motion moved by the TDP. Shiv Sena, BJP’s ally with 18 members abstained from voting to confirm its independent stand on issues.


This means that the NDA Government secured votes of some non-NDA members. Among these, the role of AIADMK with its over 30 members is noteworthy as a pragmatic decision as voting against the BJP and going with the Opposition or abstaining from voting would have brought no benefit to the party at this juncture.


The importance of the day has to be recorded for the reason that after a long time, all Lok Sabha members did some work relating to the issue before the House and contributed to the outcome of the proceedings by presence or absence. The disturbances were few and did not lead to stalling debates as in the past many sessions making it impossible to decide between “trust” and “no trust”. It clearly signifies that for most of the members, occupation of the seat of power or nearness to it is much more important than any legislation or discussion of national issues and must be contested and decided at the earliest while legislations and debate on other issues can wait.


The opening speech by the TDP member was impressive, but exclusively concentrated on the problems of Andhra Pradesh arising from the bifurcation of the united AP and specifically about the denial of Special Category Status. The issue was so vital to that party that it took the drastic decision to quit the NDA in March 2018 and quickly followed it by another extreme step of joining the Congress, its local rival, to sponsor the Motion in July. The TDP is also off and on reverting to move towards the formation of a Third Front -- non-BJP, non-Congress alliance -- which shows the fluid state of electoral and parliamentary politics of political parties in the country. 


The TDP speaker said that it was a war between Modi regime and Andhra Pradesh and its five crore people, a war against the discrimination shown by the government towards Andhra Pradesh, a war to honour an Act of Parliament and an assurance given to the State by a Prime Minister in Parliament. Thus, it demonstrates the significance of some State issues to assume prime national consideration -- a point relevant in the emergence of several regional parties and regional leaders with national ambitions. Whether an amalgamation of regional leaders and churning of provincial and local requirements can bring about national leadership accommodating varied and sometimes hostile interests remains unanswered.


Coming together to vote in the Lok Sabha on an issue does not always convey a lasting bond between two parties. The SP and the BSP, or TMC and CPM may vote for no-confidence against the BJP, but will they agree on numerous questions to be resolved for electoral alliance cannot be answered today.


In the context of the dream of Federal Front nurtured by some parties, the necessity of formulating a common approach to State-centred issues has come to light through the opening speech. Both TDP and TMC leaders have revived the idea of a federal front after the No-Confidence debate. Every State has a leader to be the potential captain of the Front which can mar the prospects of creating the Front and make it a non-starter. A Third Front with outside support of the Congress is now unpalatable to many regional parties that have gone through   such an experience earlier.


If such a Front comes to power, the constituent units will have to give up their regional bias and assume national thinking. For instance, if the next PM happens to come from TDP or TMC, he or she will have a lot of work other than conferring Special Status for AP, or appeasing the minority in Bengal.


True, the trend generally is in favour of regionalisation of national parties in State politics. But in national politics, a Federal Front has a stupendous job of nationalisation of regional parties, meaning domination of national policies and programmes. We could not see much of this in the debate motion surrounded as it was on the individual grievances of specific parties and States.  The BJP and the Congress were exceptions.


After all, No-Confidence Motion is not a common method of changing governments anywhere.  Fixed term of the elected House is generally preferred.---INFA


(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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