On Wednesday, July 26th, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi submitted a written appeal before the Speaker of Lok Sabha seeking a “no-confidence motion” against Prime Minister Modi and the National Development Alliance (NDA). Gogoi represented the alliance of 26 parties under the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA).
Upon receiving the written appeal from Gogoi and Bharat Rashtra Samithi MP Nama Nageswara Rao, Speaker Om Birla counted the number of supporters and assured that he would soon decide the date for the discussion. According to the rules, the debate must take place within ten days of the inception of the motion, and the Prime Minister has to be physically present in the Lok Sabha to address the debate.
The Modi Government is immune from the motion as the abundance of seats that the BJP possesses (303) will safely steer them through. Even its proposers have acknowledged that the purpose is not to dismiss the government but to seek comprehensive elaboration from PM Modi for his lack of accountability on the three-month-long civil war in Manipur.
Manipur, ruled by the BJP, is witnessing persistent violence and human rights violations. More than 150 people have died, women have gotten gang-raped in broad daylight, and more than fifty-thousand people have got displaced under ethnic clashes burning the state over the past three months. Despite reports of armed insurgencies and international meddling, the Modi government is yet to impose ‘President’s Rule’ or even dismiss its incompetent Chief Minister.
PM Modi has buckled up for the second “no-confidence motion” introduced against him in his nine years of governance and will unsurprisingly survive the motion. However, the real issue demands an answer for why the opposition must scheme in various ways to excavate accountability from the Prime Minister when a pertinent threat to national security hovers at large.
The opposition’s unfruitful pursuit for accountability:
The opposition has resolved to make Manipur the paramount issue for discussion from the first day of the monsoon session. It stays unclear why the eloquent and brave Prime Minister of the World’s Largest Democracy has shied away from addressing the matter.
As the opposition appealed to the Rajya Sabha Chairperson to invoke Rule 267, the chairperson brazenly turned it down. Home Minister Amit Shah and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh have assured that the Modi Government was ready for discourse over the Manipur issue. But, Modi held a bizarre apathy from facing his rival colleagues in the parliament, and his minions strained every nerve to keep him aloof from the proceedings in his newly inaugurated parliament building.
Finally, the opposition decided to metaphorically “drag the PM” to the parliament to draw a conversation via the ‘no-confidence motion.’ As the motion demands a physical address from the Leader of the Majority Party to conclude the debate, PM Modi will get “forced” to address the parliament.
Congress Veteran MP and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, clarified the opposition’s stand by saying, “It has been decided that we would not have any other alternative but to resort to a no-confidence motion because the government is not accepting the demand of the opposition to have an elaborate discussion with the Prime Minister on Manipur.”
What is a “no-confidence motion”?
A no-confidence motion puts the ruling government on the dock inside the Lok Sabha, and the house must assure their confidence (faith) in the government through a referendum. Article 75(3) of the Indian Constitution, through this motion, demands a ‘collective responsibility’ from the government’s Council of Ministers.
A Member of Lok Sabha gives written notice (supported by at least 50 other MPs) to its speaker, and he must decide the date of a debate within ten days of its introduction. On the day of the debate, an urgent topic of ‘national interest’ gets discussed thoroughly in the house, where each party is allowed time to speak in proportion to their strength on the floor. The government must counter the raised points and give elaborative answers to the questions asked.
The Leader of the Majority Party (the Prime Minister) must conclude the day’s discussion and establish his elaborative perspective before the nation. In the end, a referendum is held where the ruling party must secure at least 273 votes (50% + 1) to survive the motion. Should the government fail this test, the entire council of ministers must resign en masse.
Thus far, twenty-seven no-confidence motions have been introduced in the Lok Sabha (including the recent one). Prime Minister Indira Gandhi faced the maximum number of motions (15 times during her tenure) and survived each.
Out of the twenty-six times, only two times the governments had to resign when they were unable to prove their majority in Lok Sabha:
- In 1979, when Morarji Desai government had to quit after getting defeated by the motion.
- In 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government got thrown out of power after getting defeated by just one vote.
The last motion was passed in 2018, moved by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) against the NDA-1 government on the Andhra issue. Narendra Modi easily defeated the motion owing to the BJP’s numbers in the house.
Modi’s confidence is likely immune from the motion of “No-confidence”
To prevent getting thrown out of power, PM Modi must secure the support of at least 273 members. Presently, the NDA government has plenty of numbers in the Lok Sabha. With an alliance of 331 members (where the BJP alone has 303) MPs, the Modi Government has all the odds in its favour. Even if all the non-NDA parties come together, the BJP has abundant strength to survive a no-confidence motion.
The newly named INDIA alliance has only 144 MPs, while the unallied parties like the BRS, YSRCP and the BJD have a combined strength of 70. The prospect of the ‘neutral’ parties voting against the NDA is unlikely too.
The Modi Government is fully aware of the consequences of losing Manipur from its arsenal. Given the precarious nature of North-Eastern politics, a fall in one government would likely create a domino effect against the BJP, which might dilute BJP’s hegemony ahead of 2024.
On July 18th, the BJP organised a delegation of 38 regional parties, where many belonged from the Northeast. Hence, the Mo-Shah government is reluctant to upset the ‘seven sisters.’
Apart from grilling the government, this no-confidence motion will likely serve as a screening test for the I-N-D-I-A alliance before the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. Via voting, the unallied parties shall bear their bias by voting either for or against the motion (they may abstain too). This, in turn, shall serve as a cue for the anti-Modi alliance to adopt the best strategy to consolidate votes before the next Lok Sabha elections.
For the rest of us, we should be concerned only about the crux of the issue. Manipur needs justice, and the shrieks of the women and wails of the little children of this state, must not get shadowed by ‘whataboutery’ and politics. Unless the pain of Manipur gets cautiously reflected in the Lok Sabha, Indian politics shall again reach an unprecedented low!
Let us do our part, as responsible citizens of our country, by refraining from divisive politics and holding the “powers that be” accountable for their pre-election ‘lectures’ and post-election ‘apathy.’