No-confidence motion: Govt prepares to blunt Opposition offensive as it claims to have numbers; BJD yet to reveal stand

Editor's note: This article was originally published on 19 July. It is being republished in light of the no-confidence motion that is set to take place in Parliament today.

The Lok Sabha is set to debate and vote on a no-confidence motion, first time after 2003 when BJP's coalition government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee registered a thumping win against its political detractors. After 15 years, the National Democratic Alliance is poised to repeat history under Narendra Modi's leadership, as numbers suggest the government is well ahead of the majority mark. However, a brief remark from former Congress president Sonia Gandhi has indicated that there is always a slim chance that the outcome is not as per the government's liking.

"Who said we don't have the number," was Sonia's response when a reporter asked her to respond to speculations that the motion will be defeated. Union minister Ananth Kumar, on the other hand, exuded confidence and made light of the UPA chairperson's remark saying she is weak in mathematics.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

The effective strength of the 545-member Lok Sabha as of now is 534 (excluding the speaker) which makes the magic number needed to defeat the no-confidence motion 268.

The BJP's floor managers have been at work securing support from smaller parties, while all central ministries and departments were directed to prepare a list of achievements of the government to counter the Opposition's offensive. The party will look at gaining full mileage of the three hours and 33 minutes time it has got in the debate to defend the government. Congress, the main Opposition party was allocated 38 minutes to speak. TDP, the main initiator of the motion got 13 minutes to express its views on the motion.

One of the first efforts to secure base by the BJP was a phone call to Uddhav Thackeray. The party's troublesome alliance partner, which had not spared any opportunity to be critical of the BJP-led state and central government, has kept everyone guessing. According to a report in DNA, BJP national president Amit Shah himself made a call to Thackeray to seek support for Friday's vote. Following this, Shiv Sena also reportedly issued a whip to its MPs to support the government. However, in a later update, the party issued a clarification saying it was still undecided on who to support and claimed that the said whip was issued by mistake. PTI reported that the party has directed its MPs to stay in Delhi and participate in the parliamentary proceedings.

Meanwhile, BJP's dissident member and MP from Bihar, Shatrughan Sinha also promptly announced that he has no intentions of flouting the whip and losing his parliamentary seat. "I think there are intellectuals in Opposition but they should've done it later. Because we have the numbers and our moral is also up. I haven't left BJP and party hasn't left me. As long as I'm in BJP, I'll support it and follow every whip," Sinha said, according to The Indian Express.

The AIADMK, which is neither an NDA partner nor a part of the UPA alliance, has said that the party may not support the motion against the government. "The no-confidence motion was brought due to Andhra Pradesh’s problems. Which state supported us, our people, and our farmers during the struggle for the Cauvery Management Board? No state came forward," E Palaniswami said.

The TRS is also unlikely to support the motion as it was moved by the party's arch political opponent the TDP. Owing to state political sensibilities, it may not want to be seen in the same camp as TDP. According to The New Indian Express, one of the party MPs PB Vinod Kumar categorically said their party could not support the motion moved by the TDP, "which is opposing irrigation projects being built in Telangana". However, a final call will be taken by party supremo K Chandrasekhar Rao on Friday. There are speculations that the BJD may abstain from the vote or support the government, however, the party's official stand is that it will reveal its strategy on Friday.

The RJD, DMK, AAP, and Left parties have openly said that they will support the motion.

The Opposition parties have brought the motion against the government on several issues like special status to Andhra Pradesh, cow vigilantism, lynchings, atrocities against women and Dalits and alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act. The motion was admitted by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan after TDP MP Kesineni Srinivas moved it on the first day of the Monsoon Session. "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," Mahajan had said on Wednesday.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jul 20, 2018 08:02 AM

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