Now that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won the trial of strength on the floor of Lok Sabha with a handsome margin, he and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party do not have to worry about their continuation in the office at least till the next general elections for Lok Sabha due in April/May 2019. Modi and his party chief Amit Shah not only managed to keep all constituents of the NDA with the BJP, barring the Shiv Sena, but also fetched the support of AIADMK of Tamil Nadu. The Biju Janata Dal of Navin Patnaik and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti of Chandrashekhar Rao abstained from voting and thus inadvertently supported the Modi Government. Shiv Sena, the long-time ally of the party chose to remain absent. But the fact that the ruling side won 325 votes as against 126, clearly indicated that the BJP does not need the support of Sena’s 18 votes. This disturbing fact must be hurting the Sena leadership now.
As expected, Modi defeated the ‘No-Confidence Motion’ moved by the Telugu Desam Party and forcefully supported by the Congress and other UPA allies. From the numbers, it was vividly clear that the Opposition was far behind the ruling alliance and thus the motion was destined to lose. However, Sena’s last minute U-turn created mild flutter. The Sena chief whip in Lok Sabha, Chandrakant Khaire had issued the statutory ‘three-line whip’ to all party MPs to remain present in the House on Friday and vote in support of the Modi Government. Contrary to this decision, the Sena leadership changed its mind at the last minute and asked MPs to remain absent.
Why sena changed its stance?
It is yet not clear what made the Sena leaders change their stance. Though a partner in power in Mumbai and Centre, the Sena has always crossed swords with the BJP in general and Modi in particular. The Sena ministers in Maharashtra have been singularly and collectively threatening to quit time and again. The Party Chief Udhhav Thackeray has gone on record to declare the party’s vow to go on its own to the 2019 elections. Thus, the divorce seems to be vivid and clear. In this situation, even if the party had announced its support to the ‘No Confidence Motion’, not many eye-brows would have been raised.
Sensing this eventuality, Amit Shah telephoned Udhhav on Thursday and requested him to render support. This was followed by Khaire’s whip circular. However, soon after the news of Sena’s support to the Modi government was flashed on TV news channels, the sense of decent among the MPs reached the surface and it is reported that a few MPs even expressed their desire to either remain absent or vote against the party whip. As this news travelled to Mumbai, the top leadership developed cold feet and asked the MPs not only to abstain the voting but to remain absent. By doing this Udhhav saved his face and also indirectly helped the BJP.
It was told that while wooing him for the support, Amit Shah had offered some olive branches to the Sena. Accommodating more Sena MPs in the Union Government as ministers, appointing Sena Rajya Sabha member to the post of Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, giving half a dozen corporation posts in Maharashtra were a few of them. Now that the Sena did not vote for the BJP Government, it is yet to be seen if BJP fulfils the promises given to Udhhav Thackeray. If it doesn’t, the Sena would be left with no other option but to quit the governments and snap ties with the ruling party. Let’s see what both the BJP and the Sena do in near future. Their action will have a direct and decisive impact on the future of the 2019 elections.
Now talking about Modi’s wonderful performance on the floor of the House while replying to the debate left all opposition parties, particularly Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, nursing their bleeding wounds. Modi while addressing the allegations levelled by Rahul demolished every argument and at the end made them totally non-plus. During his speech, Modi also found holes in the so-called ‘unity’ of the Opposition and observed that all of them were looking for the opportunity to grab the coveted seat of Prime Minister. How true? This because there are at least half a dozen active aspirants for the post of PM and soon they would be fighting for it. In his attempt to tarnish the Opposition unity, Modi went on to say that all previous leaders who tried to pose challenge to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty were put to dust by the family. He put forth half a dozen examples. He narrated examples from Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Patel to Sharad Pawar. It is a well conceived game plan and Modi executed it skilfully.
Now the problem before the entire opposition is what next? Now that they have been floored on the highest forum of the Indian democracy, they would be in no position to raise anti-BJP, Anti-Modi voice at least for some time. It means Modi has won the first round of the 2019 Lok Sabha campaign. He has comfortably won the ‘Confidence’ of the elected House. Thus his seat is safe. But is it all?
If Modi looks to retain his power post 2019, he has to win a fresh mandate in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. Winning the ‘confidence’ of the 542-member Lok Sabha is comparatively easier than retaining the ‘confidence’ of the 120 Crore people, those would elect the next rulers a few months from now. Will Modi and his team be able to win that game too?
Bharatkumar Raut is a political analyst and former Member of Parliament (RS).