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Beyond no-trust vote

Beyond no-trust vote

After the washout of the Budget session earlier this year, the ensuing Monsoon session of the Parliament is expected to ensure normal business. But the hope is being belied in the manner the proceedings of the session kicked-off on Wednesday when the Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) YSR Congress and CPI-M clarified that they would move a no-confidence motion against the government. Lok Sabha Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, ruled that the no-confidence move will be taken on Friday and both the BJP-led NDA and the opposition parties geared themselves to the capitalise on the opportunity. Launching a scathing attack on the NDA government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke for an hour and raised the issues of demonetisation, GST, farmers' crisis and Rafale deal. "Rafale (fighter aircraft) cost 520 crore during UPA rule. Don't know whom Modi spoke to, but by magic, the price went up to 1,600 crore. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman cited a secrecy pact to not reveal the price. I met the French President and he said that there is no such pact of secrecy. He said, you can say this to India. Under Modi's pressure, Nirmala Sitharaman has said the untruth." When Defence Minister Sitharaman tried to reply, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan assured her that she would be given a chance to speak as soon as Gandhi's speech was over. Soon after the debate on the no-confidence motion began, Biju Janta Dal and Shiv Sena members walked out stating that they would not participate in the debate or the voting on the no-confidence motion. Surprisingly, AIADMK also announced that it would vote in favour of the government but as it turned out there was no unanimity on this among the AIADMK MPs. The BJP-led NDA is expected to win the confidence votes with a comfortable margin but BJP is said to be looking at winning the confidence by two-thirds of the vote. The no-confidence move that lends an opportunity to debate over the issues that have dominated public discourse in the recent past, is also a golden opportunity for the ruling party to elaborate on the achievements of the government and destroy the opposition's charges of incompetence and corruption. In the Budget session, the opposition wanted to discuss a plethora of issues such as banking scams, question paper leak havoc, atrocities against Dalit, women and minorities – but due to the opposition from the treasury benches, no discussion could be held on these issues. Most of the time in the two houses of the Parliament was wasted in adjournments and disruption. But, in order to get a number of key bills passed, the government is willing to have a more productive Parliament session. During the Budget session, a number of important bills were either not introduced in the Lok Sabha or remained stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling dispensation does not have a majority. The government took the route of issuing ordinances and converting newly-introduced Acts into Finance Bills so that it could bring in the necessary legislation to effectively address the issues on hand. But, given the fact that it cannot go on using the option of ordinances and Finance Bills for all legislative requirements, the government has to find ways to debate the issues in the Parliament and get the legislation duly passed. Moving in that direction, the government, this time around, has geared to face the Parliament proceedings and ensure that some of its legislation is passed by the two houses. Facing the no-confidence motion in the Parliament is one of the many steps that can mollify the opposition, which in turn can allow the Parliament to function normally. With Lok Sabha elections now less than a year away, the debate on no-confidence motion gives both the ruling and the opposition parties an opportunity to highlight the issues that they think would help polarise votes in their favour. In its response to the opposition charges, the government will highlight the positive work it has done in the last four years. Apart from the issues raised by the Congress, which have an all-India appeal, like the banking scam and unemployment, the regional parties have their own agendas specific to their region. For example, the TDP wants a special category status for Andhra Pradesh while other state governments are lobbying for a larger share of the GST fund. Regional parties are also in the process of uniting themselves and fielding common candidates against the NDA. Replying to the charges made by the regional parties would not be easy for the NDA as the nature of their demands and complaints vary from state to state and locals are more likely to listen to their regional leaders who share a pan Indian presence.

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