Ready to Hit the Ground
         Date: 31-Jul-2018
PM Modi’s hard hitting and fact-filled reply to the debate in Parliament during discussion on no-trust motion can be seen as the launch of NDA’s campaign 2019
 
Ashok Malik
 
The no-confidence motion, moved by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and discussed on July 21 in Parliament was a political gambit to show that even as Opposition parties do not have the numbers to form a replacement government they are united and have the ammunition to take shot at the Narendra Modi Government, as the country heads towards elections, less than a year away.
 

  Prime Minister Narendra Modi replying to the no-trust motion in Parliament on July 21, 2018
 
In the face of overall growth in nearly all sectors, farmers-friendly policies, sustained GDP growth and growing popular acceptance of the Modi Government among Muslims and Christians too, the Congress and other opposition parties came to the conclusion that this is their moment to show to the voters that Maha-Gathbandhan can be a viable alternative to Modi and to convince their cadres that the Modi government has lost steam.
 
That Narendra Modi and his party were ready to hit the ground running was clear when the motion was listed for discussion at the earliest opportunity in the Monsoon Session. The Opposition on the other hand ended up exposing its weaknesses. Their numbers, as claimed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, didn’t add up. Indian voters, Congress and allies will not easily forget that newly anointed Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is not mature enough to face the “strong, energetic and efficient” team Modi.
 
Rahul’s wink and hug only underscored that the trust vote was more about optics and theatrics than about arguments, logic or analysis of four years of Modi administration. Rahul’s wink is seen to suggest that he was perhaps trying to hoodwink Parliament and voters. The hug was termed awkward, uncomfortable, risky and condemnable by NDA leaders, while UPA supporters wondered what the fuss was about.
 
It was supposed to be a grand drama, but ended up as a farce. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unrelenting as he hit out at his detrimentors. Especially delicious to his supporters was his jibe praying for more strength to Rahul Gandhi so that he could propose a no trust vote even in 2024. PM’s hard hitting and fact-filled reply to the long debate can be seen as launch of NDA’s campaign 2019.
 
In case of president of a national political party nourishing Prime Ministerial aspirations, every word he speaks should be precious. His facts should convey credibility. Arun Jaitley pointed out the Nehru-Gandhi scion’s biggest faux-pas when he wrote in his blog—One should never misquote a conversation with the Head of Government or the Head of State. You do it once, serious people will be reluctant to speak to you or speak in your presence. Rahul Gandhi, by concocting a conversation with President Macron, has lowered his own credibility and seriously hurt the image of an Indian politician before the world at large.
 
The day-long debate culminated in a resounding victory for the NDA as no-confidence motion was rejected by the Lok Sabha by a 325-126 margin. The no-confidence motion wasn’t about the numbers though, as clearly the numbers were on treasury side, despite BJD’s walk out and Shiv Sena’s abstention. It was a platform for the country to see where each party stood on the national stage.
 
This was the first no-confidence vote in Parliament in 15 years and 39 MPs spoke. The debate was on familiar lines and terrain. As one commentator pointed out, “The trust vote was all about optics and the debate was fairly standard”. Rahul’s trotting off of jumla strikes and the PM’s response (having the disadvantage of being a response in a no-confidence debate) was on familiar lines: Congress arrogance, family ownership, the way the party treated anyone who tried to look the Nehru-Gandhi family in the eye. The long list of those who did so and paid the price, narrated by Narendra Modi ended with Pranab Mukherjee, to the consternation of Congress, especially Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
 
The comment that result of the no-confidence motion won’t have any effect on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections won’t cut much ice. The NDA alliance has over-achieved its target. Another comment has called the proceedings the beginning of a ‘political churn’. The motion brought out differences within both camps. How BJP deals with the Sena’s defiance remains to be seen, clearly they need each other in Maharashtra. Sena’s abstention was however made up for by strong support from the AIADMK whose 37 MPs voted for the government. This despite the fact that the state has reasons to be annoyed with the Centre on issues like the Cauvery dispute and NEET.
 
This debate has made it clear that for Congress, the road ahead is full of pit-holes speed-breakers. TDP does not appear to be on its side and Congress is in no position to dictate terms of alliance in most of the States. Though TMC voted with the Opposition, Mamata Banerjee continues to talk of a Federal Front of regional parties as the alternative to BJP/NDA. Strains in Congress-JDU alliance and creased Kumarswami visage point to problems of the UPA alliance. Regional parties including the TRS, DMK, RJD, SP, BSP, TMC and the BJD, will call shots in their strongholds as Congress tries to stitch up a national coalition to take on the NDA in 2019. That NDA government is keen to show that it means business is clear from the way legislative business has been conducted during the Monsoon session of Parliament.
 
(The writer is President of National Union of Journalists-India)