Friday 20 July was an important date for India’s democracy. The Narendra Modi government, after a day-long fight, finally defeated a no-confidence motion tabled against it by one of its former allies Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and supported by other parties, including the main Opposition – the Indian National Congress (INC).
The motion was defeated overwhelmingly by 199 votes (3265 to 126) dashing perhaps the opposition’s last major offensive aiming to topple the Modi government ahead of the next Lok Sabha election in 2019.
For the Opposition, the no-confidence motion meant little
Frankly, there was little meaning of tabling this motion, apart from the fact that the TDP did it to score its own points ahead of the provincial election in Andhra Pradesh, the state it rules, around the same time of the national elections. The TDP was an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) till March of this year but pulled out over the issue of granting a special status to the eastern coastal state.
But for the INC and other regional parties, there was very little to achieve by this no-confidence motion and instead of helping their cause, it actually benefitted the Modi government more to reconnect with its constituencies ahead of the next set of provincial elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in December this year and the big final next year.
The Opposition’s wishful thinking to defeat Modi
The Opposition is desperate to put up a strong face against Modi in the next Lok Sabha election and clung on to the no-confidence motion as an opportunity to test the strength of its own as well as that of the BJP-led alliance. The dramatic gesture of INC president Rahul Gandhi who walked straight up to a sitting Modi in parliament and gave him a bear hug to show his party’s ‘non-violent’ face, made it evident that the Opposition wanted to win as much focus as possible to remain in the contest with Modi – something which many consider non-existent at the moment. Following its rout in the 2014 general elections, the INC has tumbled time and again over the past four years and is in no position to realistically wrest power from Modi’s BJP. The need for the optics was hence high to live another day.
But as far as the real effect is concerned, the INC and other anti-Modi parties have much left to do and one suspects there is very little time now for them to script an upset in the next Lok Sabha elections.
The opponents created their own trap by enthusiastically going into the no-confidence motion for neither does the Modi government have any arithmetical disadvantage at the moment, nor does it have any moral danger, irrespective of the majoritarian tyranny and other ills that India is witnessing at the moment.
On the contrary, Modi found yet another opportunity to take on the opponents and consolidate his government’s position which he did during his long speech before winning the no-confidence motion. Time is not in favour of India’s Opposition at the moment and they are far too scattered and visionless to come up with a solid plan to topple Modi. The BJP played it smartly by swiftly allowing the motion to happen, nullifying the Opposition’s expectation that it would feel nervous.
It is difficult for India’s discredited Opposition to win against Modi, at least in the near future. The smart leader in the PM and his equally adept party have left very little space for the opponents to manoeuvre. The call against majoritarian tyranny or joblessness is not going to earn them much gain simply because a vast section of the India’s voters today refuse to see them as a better alternative to Modi.
The unmaking of Modi in India requires the making of a new identity politics that grows from below. Until such a new leadership arises, India will continue place its electoral confidence on the incumbent Prime Minister.