SEEMA MUSTAFA | 19 MARCH, 2018
“Modi Mukt Bharat”? Why Is The BJP Running Scared of a No Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha
NEW DELHI: Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in what was an excellent speech delivered with his own quiet flair and confidence, enthused the delegates to the All India Congress Committee plenary with a new mission: to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP in the 2019 general elections. The same found echo at a large rally in Mumbai where Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray called for a “Modi Mukt Bharat” to loud applause.
What has happened? What is going wrong? Is the Modi spun dream unravelling?
Parliament was stalled as the Opposition led by Telegu Desam and the YSR Congress sought to get a no confidence motion admitted in the Lok Sabha. The Speaker kept insisting that this could not be done until there was order in the House, and adjourned the Lok Sabha finally till Tuesday. It was clear to all that the government that has been blocking the motion, is running scared. But why, was the question on all lips in Central Hall of Parliament today as the BJP has the numbers, and will not be defeated insofar as sheer numbers are concerned. But yes, it will have to sit down and listen to severe criticism from almost all political parties and hitherto allies like the RJD.
Speculation had some BJP MPs actually suggesting that the government was worried about the position that MPs from within the party might take. And use the opportunity to criticise the functioning of the government as well, leading to a further loss of pace for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his right hand Amit Shah.
The situation today is very much like what was prevalent before the Janata Dal coalition came to power in 1989, riding on the back of an anti-Congress wave. The party in power is looking at deepening opposition, with the Congress seemingly in position under a new leader to provide the fulcrum for an anti-BJP consolidation. Rahul Gandhi, in his speech, struck a break from the past very carefully by first listing what the Congress stood for, and then admitting that in the last years of its government it had disconnected from the people. And that this would not happen, as it was the only party that had a) a history of sacrifice fighting for the independence of India while those from the RSS were seeking mercy from the British; 2) it believed in the truth, and not the lie; 3) and stood for all sections of society, particularly the impoverished farmers, workers, youth, minorities, Dalits ---sections that were all mentioned in his actually engrossing speech.
There is new verve in the Congress party, responded to now by the others who seem to have taken a decision to unite behind the new leader in an anti-BJP Second Front. The no confidence motion in the Lok Sabha is being seen as one major step in this direction, with the Congress, Left and others having decided to support the motion. Indications that while the Shiv Sena will not vote against it will abstain, and also use the debate to attack the BJP on the lines of the Raj Thackeray-Saamna led attack that has been pillorying both PM Modi and the government.
Indications that the Ram Vilas Paswan led Lokjanshakti Party is also fretting have also led to unease within the BJP, as this is a crucial ally insofar as the Dalit base is concerned. Not because of clout as Paswan has lost that to a major extent, but more because of the impact it will have in strengthening the “BJP is anti-Dalit” campaign of the Congress and the rest of the Opposition since the suicide by Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula, followed by the attack on the Dalits in Una, Gujarat and other states. Besides Jitan Ram Manjhi projected as a major coup by the BJP during the last Assembly polls in Bihar has jumped ship, and joined the Rashtriya Janata Dal since. Also Maharasthra Dalit leader Ramdas Athawale who joined the BJP as Union Minister, has been expressing concern about Dalit alienation.
The BJP is balking for three reasons, as emerge from speaking with a cross section of political leaders:
PM Modi is not keen to be in the dock being fired upon by the Opposition leaders as a no confidence motion, regardless of whether the government wins or loses (in this case it is an assured win), places it in a defensive position regardless.
The motion, despite how the others vote, could spark off a anti-BJP discussion with the position of supporting parties like the Shiv Sena uncertain insofar as the debate itself is concerned. Besides the regional parties---including the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK---might adopt a more critical position of the BJP than in the past, exposing a fairly isolated party in the Lok Sabha.
Search for a strategy to dilute the Opposition offensive. The BJP/RSS leaders are sitting with their thinking caps on, wondering how to gain instead of lose mileage from the present crisis. The delay in admitting the motion is a bid to gain time.