The no-trust motion boomeranged on both the Congress-led partnership as well as the idea of a non-Congress/non-BJP grand alliance.
The Congress should now be wondering whether it had been wise to project the no-trust motion against the Narendra Modi Government as an expression of opposition unity. For all its grandstanding, the so-called united opposition managed just 126 votes as against 325 of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA. The Congress failed to wean away the fence-sitters and had to be content with its core supporters within the UPA, the Left parties, the Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool Congress. The Shiv Sena refused to play the Congress’s game and distanced itself from voting. This was certainly a snub to its ally, the BJP, too, but at least the Sena didn’t vote against the Government. Biju Janata Dal MPs preferred to walk out of the House and not participate in the proceedings, and that brought the tally down in the Lok Sabha, helping the BJP to shore up numbers.
Out of the blue, he reiterated his Hindu credentials — his being a devotee of Lord Shiva etc — and said he had no problems being called a “Pappu”.
The Shiv Sena and the BJD may have indulged in half-gestures, but the AIADMK, which is not part of the NDA, demonstrated full-throated opposition to the no-confidence motion and voted in favor of the Modi regime. This could be a precursor to a formal alignment in Tamil Nadu between the BJP and the AIADMK ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Equally interesting was the position the TRS took — of refraining from voting. This is significant for some reasons. The first is that TRS supremo and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao had been an early proponent of a non-Congress/non-BJP third front, but later seemed to lose interest in pursuing the possibility. The second is that TRS members later said their party shared cordial ties with the Modi Government and, therefore, they saw no reason to vote against the regime. The third is that, given the bitterness in the relationship it shares with the TDP (which had moved the no-confidence motion), over the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the TRS could not have supported the TDP’s initiative. The fourth interesting part is that Prime Minister Modi in his speech that concluded the discussion praised Telangana, and the TRS in a way. Could this lead to some sort of a pre-poll understanding between the TRS and the BJP in the run-up to 2019?
And the fifth was that the Prime Minister remarked he had cautioned TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu against falling in the trap of YSR Congress and breaking ties with the NDA. The message was clear enough: The TDP could if it wants to, return to the NDA which was committed to the development of Andhra Pradesh, once it realized its mistake and abandoned competitive regionalism with YSR Congress.
Thus, the no-trust motion boomeranged on both the Congress-led partnership as well as the idea of a non-Congress/non-BJP grand alliance. It needs to be kept in mind that even those who ganged up against the Modi regime in the no-trust vote, are not necessarily going to be partners in the electoral battle. For instance, the Left and the Trinamool Congress, both of whom backed the motion, will contest as rivals to each other in West Bengal. The Samajwadi Party and the Congress, who joined hands to back the TDP’s no-confidence move, are unlikely to partner with each other in Uttar Pradesh. And the Left and the Congress, both of whom supported the motion against the Government, will fight the Lok Sabha election as opponents in Kerala.
The end loser was, of course, the TDP. The issues of Andhra Pradesh were hardly discussed in the nearly 12-hour-long discussion on the no-confidence motion.
Even optics has not worked for the Congress. The party was left embarrassed when Rahul Gandhi walked up to the Prime Minister after his speech and forcibly hugged him while the latter remained seated. The Congress president was rebuked by the Lok Sabha Speaker over the unbecoming conduct. Rahul Gandhi’s speech too was a disaster. It was personal and well short of substance. Flouting parliamentary convention, he flung wild allegations against the Prime Minister — calling him a stakeholder in supposedly corrupt deals — and the Defence Minister. He referred to a conversation he had with the French President and claimed that the Rafale fight plane deal was mired in corruption. It was not hours after he said this that he was slapped with a privilege motion which the BJP has moved before the Speaker, on the ground that he had sought to mislead the House by leveling unsubstantiated accusations.
The Congress president’s speech, which was supposed to lead to tectonic shifts, was as bizarre as his hug. Out of the blue, he reiterated his Hindu credentials — his being a devotee of Lord Shiva etc — and said he had no problems being called a “Pappu”. Turning into an evangelist, he claimed that he was there to remove hatred from the hearts of BJP leaders. Buoyed by the loud thumps from his backers in the Congress camp, he perhaps failed to realize that he was making a complete fool of himself in the process. worse, from his point of view, he was giving an opportunity for the Prime Minister to latch on to those follies — which Modi did with devastating effect when his turn to respond to the non-trust move came.
The end loser was, of course, the TDP. The issues of Andhra Pradesh were hardly discussed in the nearly 12-hour-long discussion on the no-confidence motion. Chandra Babu Naidu should introspect on what he has gained from the avoidable tamasha.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.