Observations from the no-trust vote
From farm distress to job creation to the real state of the Indian economy, we are now clearly in a post-truth world with alternative facts supporting pre-existing narratives being thrown around during the debate.columns Updated: Jul 21, 2018 20:10 IST
There was never any doubt that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would defeat the no-confidence motion brought by the Telugu Desam Party and supported by pretty much the entire opposition. The only question was the margin. Ahead of the vote, this paper reported that the BJP had set its eyes on two-thirds of the house (66.67% of members present) voting against the no-confidence motion. Late on Friday night, when the vote was taken up, 72% of the members present voted against the motion. The BJP has reason to be happy. It does have to address some points of concern, but more on that anon.
The vote itself, though, because it was never in doubt, wasn’t the purpose of the motion. The debate ahead of it was. With the entire country — at the least, those with TV and Internet connections — watching or listening, the no-confidence motion was an opportunity for the Opposition parties, which claim they are not heard in Parliament and out of it, to speak on the performance of the government on various fronts. It was also an opportunity for the Opposition, which is working to create a national coalition to take on the BJP (which now directly or indirectly governs 21 states; such has been its dominance) to showcase the unity of this grouping-in-the-making. And finally, it was an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi, named president of the Congress late last year, to present his case to be the country’s next prime minister.
A day after, beyond the vote, who won and who lost? More importantly, what is the import of Friday’s proceedings in the house? Here’s Chanakya’s own listicle.
10. The curious case of the AIADMK: Or not so curious, if you accept the theory in certain quarters that the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government in Chennai, headed by phonetic twins EPS and OPS, is actually remote-controlled from New Delhi. The AIADMK didn’t issue a whip but said its members would support the government. Many seem to have done so. Unfortunately, given the current political climate in the state of Tamil Nadu, that support could be another factor that works to the AIADMK’s disadvantage in next year’s parliamentary elections. Ergo, the BJP probably realises the need to look beyond the AIADMK, perhaps at the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam headed by TTV Dhinakaran.
9. State and Centre: The Biju Janata Dal’s decision to not participate in the no-confidence motion is entirely in keeping with Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s political philosophy — ensuring that his party is dominant at all levels in the state. With some cracks beginning to appear in his dominance at the state level, and because Odisha is one of the few states where assembly and parliamentary elections take place at the same time, the BJP may sense an opportunity to forge some sort of understanding with Patnaik. It needs the numbers in 2019.
8. The new partner: There are no permanent friends or enemies in politics, only interests, but it is unlikely that the Telugu Desam Party and the BJP will patch up anytime soon. Far too much was said on Friday for that to happen anytime soon. The BJP, though, can take heart from the Telangana Rashtra Samithi’s decision to boycott the vote. Party chief and state chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao may be flirting with the grand-alliance-in-the-making to take on the BJP, but it is clear that he is keeping his options open.
7. The hidden threat: The Samajwadi Party has five members in the current Lok Sabha, the Bahujan Samaj Party has none. The two parties have already formed an alliance , although they have not publicised the contours of this partnership. This is the biggest threat the BJP faces in 2019 because an alliance of the SP and BSP could win a significant number of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh (the BJP won 71 of these in 2014).
6. Alternative facts: From farm distress to job creation to the real state of the Indian economy, we are now clearly in a post-truth world with alternative facts supporting pre-existing narratives being thrown around during the debate. The truth, which lies somewhere in the middle of these alternatives, is usually the casualty. The run-up to next year’s election will see an increase in these narratives, with people believing what they want to depending on their political affiliation.
5. Coordination and coalition: It may have been the suddenness with which the Speaker of the Lok Sabha accepted the TDP’s no-confidence motion, but the Opposition was clearly not ready for the debate — in terms of launching a coordinated attack against the government. Clearly, a lot of work needs to be done on this front.
4. The perfect moment: Rahul Gandhi’s hug of Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have been scripted or spontaneous, but it was the image of the debate. At one level, the hug could just mean that the Congress, a latecomer to the political messaging techniques the BJP has made its own, is finally catching up. At another, it could mean that the party is no longer afraid of Narendra Modi.
3. The new Gandhi: Friday’s debate was another indication that Rahul Gandhi has reinvented himself. His speech was aggressive; attack, frontal; and sense of imagery and idiom, advanced. It may still not be enough — to even convince other Opposition parties of his ability to take on Modi in 2019 — but it was impressive.
2. The old Modi: The Prime Minister’s performance on Friday was vintage Modi. The familiar ingredients were all there — the attack on the family; a nod to his own humble beginnings; earthy humour; a sharp turn of phrase — but in a substantive speech, Modi managed to list almost all of his government’s achievements, respond to each of the allegations made against him and his government, and turn every image and idiom used by Gandhi to his own advantage. This is what Gandhi, the Congress, and the united Opposition (if there is one) is up against in 2019.
1. Parliament @ work: Now that everyone has had their say, and there’s much work to be done — this could well be the last serious session before everyone gets into election mode — can we expect that it will be done?
First Published: Jul 21, 2018 19:29 IST