No-confidence motion: As BJP turns tables on Congress, trust vote could end up embarrassing united opposition

What was expected to be an embarrassment for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and another session riddled with ruckus and dysfunctionality appears to have played out otherwise. On the opening day of the Monsoon Session in Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sprung a surprise on the Congress and other opposition parties when Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan admitted the application for a no-confidence motion against the central government and announced that it will be taken up as soon as on Friday.

The opposition clearly wasn’t prepared for this. The idea, perhaps, was to ensure that logjam persists in the House and the opposition gets an opportunity to pin the blame on the government for the impasse in parliament. However, the government’s acceptance to go ahead with the no-trust vote was backed by its confidence of getting the required numbers. If it was any indication, it was the opposition parties such as Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress that sought postponement of the discussion on the no-confidence motion and the government, that decided against it.

In a total strength of 535 members in the Lower House, the Narendra Modi government requires 268 to sail through the majority mark and defeat the motion. The BJP says it is confident of gaining the support of 314 members in the house. Union Parliamentary Affairs minister said that the BJP will not only get the support of NDA votes but from other parties as well.

“It is not only #NDA but #NDA +…The #NoConfidenceMotion will be defeated. @narendramodi government support is growing inside and outside the #Parliament,” Ananth Kumar said on Twitter.

Kumar further exuded confidence that allies of the BJP such as Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, Janata Dal (United) and others would rally behind the BJP. The ruling party has 273 MPs on its own, numbers that get it through the challenge comfortably.

Besides the numbers, the change in tact on part of the government is backed by some other intentions too. Said to have been engineered by BJP’s master strategist Amit Shah, the ruling party is of the firm belief that the entire trust vote drama could, in fact, help the ruling establishment embarrass the Congress, blow holes in the idea of a strong united opposition, and solidify the PM Modi and the government’s position in the eyes of the electorate.

There are a couple of reasons why the government believes so. First, a victory for the BJP in the trust vote scheduled for Friday at 6 pm establishes that the NDA is intact and, regardless of what the opposition may like to propagate. If parties like the Shiv Sena, Akali Dal and the JD(U) back the government in this vote, it will quell all talks of trouble in the NDA fold and portray the alliance as strong as ever.

Second, all eyes will also be on parties such as Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK, among others who have maintained equal distance from the BJP and the Congress so far. While the Congress will be banking on these parties abstaining from the trust vote, a development otherwise would come as another failure for Rahul Gandhi and the parties rallying with the Congress to challenge Modi in 2019. Neutral parties like the AIADMK, BJD and Telangana Rashtra Samiti have 68 members while the rest of the opposition has 152.

Third, a discussion and debate, and the subsequent voting on the no-confidence motion will leave the opposition with no potent weapon to try and disrupt proceedings in the House this session. While the Congress and other parties may seek the Prime Minister’s reply on issues such as mob lynching and farmers, the government will appear to have come out as the victor for having allowed a trust vote despite the numbers just to allow the parliament to function.

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