The sudden acceleration of tempo in Andhra has snowballed into a major crisis for the Modi government. It is no longer about numbers, it is about a perception quotient, which the prime minister can afford to ignore only at a bigger political cost.
It was in 2013 when an entire session of the Parliament washed out, not for any national issue but because of the steep fight between Pro-Telangana and Pro-United Andhra Pradesh MPs fighting among them. The result was that the proceedings were hampered every day without fail, and finally called off. The Pro-Telangana MPs made it impossible for the then Manmohan Singh Government to conduct any business. The outcome was that the Congress Government, engulfed by many adversities, was forced to bow to the demand and announce the formation of Telangana carved out of united Andhra Pradesh with Hyderabad as its capital. The expectation of the Congress big-wigs was that the people of Telangana and the rest of the Andhra would appreciate the party gesture and return Congress to power. However, contrary to their well calculated expectations, both the states rejected the Congress and returned Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra and Chandrasekhar Rao of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) in Telangana.
Now, four years later, demands of Andhra Pradesh have once again taken the centre of the political stage and have brought the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in an awkward situation, where the so far all powerful Narendra Modi Government is forced to face ‘no-confidence’ motion on the floor of the Lok Sabha today. If things move the way the opposition parties have planned, two separate ‘no confidence’ motions against the Modi Government shall come before the House today itself. As per the rules of the Parliamentary proceedings, if required number of members rise in support of the motion, the Speaker is left with no other option but to take it for discussion setting aside any other business. It only means that a major showdown seems to be inevitable.
BJP enjoys full majority
Going by the present strength of members in the Lok Sabha, it goes without saying that the no-confidence motion would be defeated as at least today, the ruling BJP enjoys full majority notwithstanding the support from other constituents of the NDA. However, this situation has provided an opportunity to TDP, YSR Congress and more significantly the Congress and its allies to take on the ruling side. Even if the motion is not carried as expected, the amount of mud-slinging that would take place during the discussion would surely leave the ruling side red-faced. Modi and his lieutenants should have avoided this as it comes close on the heels of the next Lok Sabha elections scheduled within the next 14 months.
The sudden acceleration of tempo in Andhra has snowballed into a major crisis for the Modi government. It is no longer about numbers (it is well-paced to survive a trust vote), it is about a perception quotient, which the prime minister can afford to ignore only at a bigger political cost. The opposition has seized the opportunity to embarrass Modi, perceiving a weakening of his moral authority, which so far has been unassailable even in their wildest dreams. For the NDA, it is time to sit and take a more serious look at why the sheen it has so far exhibited is losing its gloss. For the first time, though mildly, Chandrababu Naidu criticised the PM, saying that he has no time for allies — perhaps an indication that he was still open to negotiation, given a fairer deal for Andhra.
The TDP Chief gathered the courage to openly criticise the BJP Government, particularly Modi, only after the BJP faced the unexpected debacle in the recently held three Lok Sabha by-elections held in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where the ruling side finished with a poor show of 0-3, losing all constituencies to Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal. Though, the BJP has lost over ten seats since it grabbed power from the Congress-led UPA in 2014, the defeat in Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections were more significant as these sets were earlier held by sitting UP chief minister Yogi Aditya Nath and deputy chief minister Maurya. Yogi had held the seat for five consecutive terms. These defeats were seen as a hard hitting punch delivered by the Samajwadi Party’s new young leader Akhilesh Yadav and a seasoned politician Mayawati. They came together to take on the BJP and won the game. This was a blow from the blue for BJP and particularly to Modi-Amit Shah combine. Modi’s dear friend and hand-picked BJP president Amit Shah was so far considered the wisest poll strategist as he had ensured BJP win in 73 out of 80 constituencies in the state in 2014 followed by another mammoth victory in 2017 Assembly elections. That strategy failed to deliver this time. This over-confidence made the BJP loose the crucial battles.
Sena to abstain
Close on the heels of these defeats, Chandrababu announced his exit from the NDA Government and asked his two ministers to resign. Soon, he also quit the NDA and joined the opposition bandwagon to bring in ‘no-confidence’ motion causing sleepless nights to Modi-Shah duo. To worsen the situation for Modi, Shiv Sena — BJP’s oldest ally — has decided not to support Modi in no-confidence vote, but to abstain.
It only means that the cracks are now visible and vivid in the NDA camp, and they are widening every day. Now, if the BJP strategy-planners don’t act quickly and fix the damage, the damage would prove to be fatal and the result would prove it in 2019 elections, if not earlier.
Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).