The Modi government is expected to have a smooth sailing when it faces the first no-confidence motion in four years in the Lok Sabha on Friday with all eyes on fence sitters like the AIADMK and the BJD and the day-long debate that is likely to set the agenda for the 2019 general elections.
Though the numbers are heavily stacked against the opposition, the Congress and other parties indicated that they are keen to utilise the debate to attack the government on a range of of issues including farm distress, slow economic growth and rising incidents of lynching.
The BJP on the other hand is seeking to expand the guaranteed support of 313 members after estranged ally Shiv Sena said it will back the government and look for support from regional parties like the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK) and the Biju Janata Dal(BJD). It would try to weaken the anti-BJP front by eroding the support for the no-trust motion and deplete the opposition numbers.
In a House of 534 MPs, the National Democratic Alliance(NDA) has 313 members including 274 (including the Speaker)of BJP, 18 of Shiv Sena, six of Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP and four from Shiromani Akali Dal(SAD). The majority mark in the House is 268. There are 11 vacancies.
As the opposition and the government geared up for the no-trust motion--the first in 15 years, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami hinted his party AIADMK might not back the motion. The AIADMK has 37 MPs and its abstention during voting is also not being ruled out. The previous no-trust motion that was moved by the Congress against the Vajpayee government in 2003 was defeated.
The ruling BJD in Odisha said it will reveal its stand on the motion on the floor of the House tomorrow. The BJD has 19 MPs.
All the key parties including the BJP and the Congress have issued whips to ensure the presence of all its members in the House. The debate is scheduled to start at 11 am.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan yesterday said discussion on the no-confidence motion moved by BJP's former ally TDP and others will be held for the full day followed by voting on it.
The BJP claimed it will comfortably sail through the no-confidence motion and that it is hopeful of getting support from several non-NDA parties.
"Government has the strength in the House to defeat the motion if one calculates by Indian mathematics...and I do not know which country's mathematics she is using to calculate the numbers," BJP general secretary Ram Madhav said on the sidelines of an event, reacting to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi's claim yesterday that the Opposition had the numbers.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar also took a dig at the Congress leader, saying, "Sonia Gandhi's maths is weak."
"We will get new support. It will be from the South, East and all other directions,"
"The numbers are very clear. The BJP by itself has a majority in the lower house. We have nearly 314 members within the NDA and there are many other parties which are likely to oppose this no-confidence motion," BJP national spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said.
The Congress, however, said it is not only a question of numbers.
"It is not only a question of numbers. The opposition will raise various issues concerning the people of the country. Our campaign is to expose the government and tell the truth to the people," senior Spokesperson of the Congress Anand Sharma told reporters.
He said the Congress and other opposition parties will use the occasion to highlight the failures of the government and show them the mirror. "This is the launch of a campaign which will send them packing in 2019 Lok Sabha polls."
The Congress had a strategy meeting of its Lok Sabha MPs presided by Sonia Gandhi during which it was decided to attack the government on farm distress among other issues during the debate.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi will lead the charge fpr the Congress, according to the party.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech is likely to paint Congress and other opposition parties as an "opportunistic alliance" with the sole aim of dislodging him from power.
Ahead of Assembly polls in four states due later this year and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP leaders see the debate as an opportunity to reach out to the masses with various "successes" of the government and also to attack the "opportunist alliance" of opposition parties.
The Opposition parties have brought the motion against the government on several issues like special status to Andhra Pradesh, cow vigilantism, lynchings, atrocities against women and dalits and alleged dilution of the SC/ST Act.
According to projections by the BJP's floor managers, the government is also likely to get support from small parties outside the NDA such as Anbumani Ramadoss's PMK and Raju Shetty-led Swabhimani Paksha. Abstention by some opposition parties is also not being ruled out.
The stated strength of the Opposition is 220, including 63 of the Congress-led UPA, 37 of AIADMK, 34 of Trinamool Congress(TMC), 19 of BJD, 16 of TDP and 11 of Telangana Rashtra Samithi(TRS).The Lok Sabha Speaker's decision to accept the motion moved by Telugu Desam Party(TDP) and others came on the very first day of the Winter session of Parliament yesterday, a move that caught the opposition by surprise.