(Dr Pentapati Pullarao, New Delhi)
A No-Confidence Motion is a parliamentary device to test strength of a government in parliament. If the Government loses the No-Confidence Motion, then it must resign. Every Indian prime Minister has faced a no-Confidence Motion. The No-Confidence motion is the foundation of British -style parliamentary democracy, which Indian constitution had adopted.
Like British parliament, Indian parliament has No-Fixed-Term. A government is formed on whoever gets the majority in Lok Sabha. Therefore, whenever a government loses majority in parliament, it has to resign.
In India, since 1947, there have been 27 No-Confidence Motions. But only Prime minister Morarji Desai resigned in 1979, as his government lost majority. 3 other Prime ministers went for a Vote –of Confidence and lost. They were V.P. Singh in 1990, Deve Gowda in 1997 and Vajpayee in 1999.
The First No Confidence motion in India
Jawaharlal Nehru was Prime Minister since 1947. For 17 years, no one dared bring a Vote of No-Confidence against the great Nehru. But after the Indian defeat by China in 1962, Opposition leader J.B. Kripalani moved a No-Confidence motion in August 1963, blaming Nehru for disgraceful defeat of India. The No-Confidence was defeated. But after that, Nehru slowly lost his prestige in the country.
A big way to challenge any government is to move a No-Confidence Motion. There will be a long debate and then the Prime Minister will finally answer.
If a very important issue is raised, then entire nation comes to attention. In August 1963, when opposition leader Kripalani moved a No-Confidence motion against Nehru government, India was gripped, as Nehru was being challenged for the first time.
That no-Confidence motion was turning point in Nehru’s political life. After that Nehru slid into bad health and eventually died by 1964.
Important subjects should be the reason for a No-Confidence Motion
Just like Nehru faced a No-Confidence motion, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and P.V. Narsimha Rao faced No-Confidence motions. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had big majorities in parliament and had no worry. But P.V. Narsimha Rao had a Minority government and therefore every no-Confidence motion was a severe test for Narasimha Rao.
In July ,1993, PV Narasimha Rao faced his third No-Confidence motion and he won narrowly. There was keen interest in the country, as most expected Narasimha to lose. But the Telugu Chankya managed to win.
From 2003 to 2018, there were no No-Confidence motions. During the entire term of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (2004 – 2014), there were many scams and Ministers resigned. But BJP did not move a No-Confidence Motion.
Narendra Modi faced his first No-Confidence Motion in 2018 and now is facing the second No-Confidence motion. Narendra Modi had a full majority in 2018 and even today, there is really no danger, unlike P.V. Narasimha Rao who had only 225 MPs out of 542 MPs.
Why No-Confidence motions fail in India?
In countries like Israel, Japan, Italy and Spain, No-Confidence motions succeed as either parties switch alliances or MPs defect freely. India is perhaps the only country in the world which has an Anti-Defection law for MPs and MLAs. Even if the government is very un-popular and MPs are unhappy, they cannot vote against government ,as they will lose their seat.
The Anti-Defection law was passed in 1985,when Rajiv Gandhi was prime Minister. The Anti-Defection law has removed real threats to Governments in no-Confidence Motions
In England, there have been 4 Prime Ministers in 4 years recently, as MPs expressed un-happiness with government. There is no Anti-Defection law in England.
The present No-Confidence motion:
Opposition has every right to attack government. But by raising Manipur as its main subject, there is a doubt whether Opposition wanted to damage international reputation of Narendra Modi. By raising violence in Manipur, Opposition brings back bad memories, when the entire Northeast was in trouble.
Issues of price rise or un-unemployment or other issues are not glamorous. So, when riots broke out in Manipur, between tribes who were traditional enemies for centuries, the Opposition felt that this could dent Narendra Modi’s image abroad. But will it help the Opposition in India?
Opposition has every right to bring a no-Confidence Motion against BJP government. But the question is whether Manipur was the right issue? The opposition is trying to create a situation, as if there was war against the Indian government, when it was only trouble between tribes.
The subject chosen by the Opposition for a No-Confidence Motion hurts India internationally and not the Modi government.
What Nehru said in August 1963 about no-Confidence Motions:
Nehru referred to the No-Confidence Motion against him in 1963 and said “A No-Confidence Motion should aim at removing the government and taking its place. It is clear there was no such hope. Hence, this debate is unreal (useless).
Nehru’s words can very well apply to Narendra Modi this week. There might be a debate. But the no-Confidence Motion will fail. If Nehru were alive, he might well have criticized the opposition that the subject chosen was damaging India’s reputation. India is too precious to be damaged.
The only Prime minister who faced serious threats from 3 No-Confidence motions is PV Narasimha Rao. But the Chanakya outwitted the opposition and survived with barely 225 MPs. PV Narasimha is truly the Champion of No-Confidence motions.