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Foreign media on no-confidence motion and ‘return of coalition politics’ in India

A key test of a united opposition front will come on Friday when Narendra Modi’s government faces its first no-confidence motion in Parliament.

india Updated: Jul 20, 2018 10:37 IST
No confidence motion,no confidence motion against pm,constructive vote of no confidence
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi at the Parliament House in New Delhi. The Narendra Modi government will face its first no-confidence motion in Parliament today.(Sushil Kumar/HT File Photo)

The era of India’s coalition politics is back.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 wave of popularity receding, polls show the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party may fall short of a full majority in next year’s federal election, prompting the country’s opposition parties to put aside their ideological differences and unite.

A key test of this new alliance will come on Friday when Modi’s government faces its first no-confidence vote in Parliament, the first one for any Indian government in 15 years. While the ruling coalition is expected to easily defeat the motion, the outcome will reveal which group has been more successful in pulling smaller and non-aligned parties into its fold.

“What is important is to see how many votes each side gets and which side has more cracks – the opposition or ruling coalition,” said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based author and political analyst.

The federal election will determine whether Modi continues the economic and social reforms he put in place after winning the largest majority in three decades. He introduced a nationwide goods and services tax and banned 86 percent of the country’s currency in a bid to stamp out unaccounted wealth. But the GST’s chaotic implementation, along with a banking credit crisis and growing discontent in rural areas, are adding to voter concerns.

The Congress Party, led by Rahul Gandhi, has already reached an understanding with other opposition parties for nationwide cooperation, and it’s now working with small regional parties to build state-specific coalitions, said Congress leaders familiar with the development. The party is negotiating with regional leaders in up to a dozen states to improve its lowest ever performance at the 2014 election and block BJP from retaining power, said the leaders, who asked not to be identified as they are not authorized to speak to the media.

“Coalition politics is the reality and it is there,” said PL Punia, a senior member of the Congress party, without giving details. “It’s not a straight-jacket formula. Our policy on coalition is a state-wise assessment and a state-wise decision.”

Countering Modi

The turning point for the country’s divided opposition came in May after elections in the southern state of Karnataka. While Modi’s BJP emerged as the single largest party, it was ousted by a last-minute coalition cobbled together by the Congress party and the regional Janata Dal (Secular) party.

Looking to 2019, it may be difficult for the BJP to repeat its last performance in states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, where it nearly swept all the seats in 2014, said Harish Ramaswamy, a political analyst and professor of political science at Karnatak University. Modi’s electoral standing has reduced because of discontent by farmers and Dalits within the ruling party, Ramaswamy said by phone.

The BJP is likely to lose around 50 seats from these five states, reducing its overall strength from 282 to less than 200 throughout the country, which falls short of a majority in 543-member lower house of parliament, he said.

“As no grouping is getting close to a majority, pre-poll alliances are becoming more inevitable,” said Ramaswamy. “The strategy of opposition parties is not to concentrate on their votes, their seats; but to destroy votes of BJP.”

The BJP had forged an alliance with as many as 28 parties in the last election, even though it got enough seats on its own for a majority. The Congress party, which had tied up with about 10 parties in 2014, has sought to increase its allies this time around.

Congress is working to forge coalitions in states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, the party leaders said. It is separately in talks with Mayawati, leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, for an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, they said.

Mayawati is talking to Congress on alliance matters and she will take the final decision, said Satish Chandra Misra, a senior BSP leader.

Even as BJP has extended its footprints across 19 of India’s 29 states, maintaining allies has proven difficult. Since March, two key partners -- the Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh and the People’s Democratic Party in Kashmir, quit the coalition called National Democratic Alliance or NDA. Another ally, Shiv Sena, is showing restiveness. These three parties make up 35 seats.

Still, BJP leaders are hopeful that the no-confidence motion will provide an opportunity to expose the opposition’s continued weakness. “We are hopeful that we will get support from parties outside NDA as well,” Ananth Kumar, parliamentary affairs minister, told reporters on Wednesday.

Ahead of the vote on Friday, parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party, Biju Janata Dal and Telangana Rashtra Samithi, are keeping their cards close to the chest. These parties account for 68 seats in the lower house.

“The more regional parties you have, the wider will be your net,” Jerath said.

First Published: Jul 20, 2018 10:34 IST