BJP bungles: Devendra Fadnavis' trust vote win in Maha is an empty victory
Was BJP queasy about NCP's support for survival, either by the latter abstaining or voting in its favour. Is it that the BJP continues to suspect the NCP's honesty, that it may suddenly get up and vote against it? BJP had been consistently saying that NCP's was a unilateral offer, and it had neither sought or accepted it. But today, by doing neither, it would have stood to gain
Today, Devendra Fadnavis and his strategists bungled spectacularly.
It was, if anything, a very poor start to a minority government, which ought to have not only won the confidence of the Assembly, but let the voters across Maharashtra know that the party does not play dirty. That would have been reassuring when voters had voted for it with some legitimate expectations.
The Bharatiya Janata party did win the vote of confidence but only by voice vote. The way it was secured makes one suspect it and BJP should explain the route adopted. There was no counting of raised hands. The division was never taken up, leading to demands that the confidence motion and voting on it be taken again.
Instead of applause, the Fadnavis government has started attracting scorn, for use of a sleight of hand of sorts to win a vote. It would be hard for the man to live it down.
This is how it happened: BJP's Haribhau Bagade, just a while earlier elected unanimously as the Speaker of the newly constituted and convened Assembly, had two subjects on the agenda before him. One was naming of the Leader of Opposition and the other was motion of confidence in the government led by Fadnavis.
He pointed out that some technical issues had to be studied, since two political parties— Congress and the Shiv Sena —had staked their respective claims. Hence, he was proceeding with the confidence motion. The motion was immediately moved by a BJP MLA, and a voice vote called, and it was announced that the motion was carried.
Talking to reporters, Haribhau Bagade said, "I asked, 'those who say aye, say aye, those who say no, nay'. And then took up the next subject on the agenda. The Opposition asked for the division only after I pronounced the ayes had it. They asked a little late. They should have asked at the very moment I said 'the ayes have it'.
"If there was no government - it required a vote of confidence to be won - how could a Leader of Opposition be announced?
"When the agenda was decided, I was not the Speaker.
"There have been such cases in the past when delayed call for division were disallowed. It is their error. "
The Sena, rattled at the shuffling of the subjects in the agenda, were taken aback. When they shifted from the issue of the claims to the confidence vote, the Speaker insisted it was done and he wouldn't return to it. Now, the demand from at least two parties, the Shiv Sena and the Congress, would take it to the governor, calling the confidence vote "illegitimate".
That is the procedural part.
But why did the BJP resort to this ruse? Was this the sure-shot strategy that Fadnavis and his colleagues had been speaking of over the last two days? Why did it run away from having the numbers counted? After all, with the Independents backing him and his government, and the Nationalist Congress assuring backing to keep the government stable, there wasn't a need to play this mischief.
With these things in place, he would have sailed through.
Ramdas Kadam of the Sena went public with a suggestion that BJP was unsure of its own MLAs voting for the government. He ferreted out the earlier show of strength by Nitin Gadkari in Nagpur, where 40 MLAs from Vidarbha may not have voted for it. It is an untenable suggestion. It was an attempt at stirring up an issue that does not exist.
Congress was in no way going to vote in favour of the motion of confidence.
This raises a question. Was it queasy about NCP's support for survival, either by the latter abstaining or voting in its favour. Is it that the BJP continues to suspect the NCP's honesty, that it may suddenly get up and vote against it? BJP had been consistently saying that NCP's was a unilateral offer, and it had neither sought or accepted it. But today, by doing neither, it would have stood to gain.
However, this victory this afternoon may be pyrrhic. Even if a Finance Bill is quite some time away, the government may have to face a vote on the Governor's Address. The address is scheduled for today, and after discussion over the next day or two, would await a vote. At that time, the Opposition would be more alert and ensure a division - with the division bell being run, the lobbies cleared, and the vote taken.
Would at that time, the BJP manage the same cunning?
To say that Devendra Fadnavis had a smooth sailing, given the things done and things as happened, would be a distorted representation of facts.
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