TDP exits NDA, moves no-confidence motion; gets support from Congress, Left

TDP MP Naramalli Sivaprasad and other party leaders stage a protest demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh outside Parliament in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: PTI
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on Friday quit the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance and moved a no-confidence motion of its own in the Lok Sabha against the Narendra Modi-led government. The two TDP Union ministers had quit the government on March 8.

The Congress, the Left and several other opposition parties said they would support the no-confidence motion.

The TDP’s move came a day after its rival YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) moved a no-confidence motion against the Modi government.

The no-confidence notices were moved by the TDP’s Thota Narasimham and the YSRCP’s Y V Subba Reddy in the Lok Sabha. These are the first such motions moved against the government since 2014. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the motions could not be taken up because of the din. A no-confidence motion needs signatures of at least 54 MPs for it to be admitted.

The NDA government, which has the requisite majority in the Lok Sabha even after the TDP’s exit, seemed keen to face the no-confidence motion next week. Voting on a no-confidence motion is preceded by a debate.

BJP strategists said the debate would offer Prime Minister Narendra Modi an opportunity to shape his party’s election campaign narrative for the Lok Sabha polls as a fight between the corrupt — who have come together for their survival — and a man who has tried to check malfeasance in public life. The BJP said the TDP’s decision has offered it the scope to expand in Andhra Pradesh.

During the debate, the Opposition hopes to highlight the “failures” of the Modi government on issues of farm distress, employment generation and corruption, particularly the Punjab National Bank fraud case.

In Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu said, “We are fighting a dharma yuddham (religious battle) against the Centre to secure our state’s legitimate rights.” Naidu said he was reaching out to Opposition parties to seek support for the no-confidence motion.

The YSRCP and the TDP have demanded special category status for Andhra Pradesh. The TDP, after the BJP and the Shiv Sena, was the third-biggest constituent of the ruling NDA with 16 Lok Sabha MPs. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre had waited endlessly for a response from Andhra Pradesh to resolve the special package issue.

The TDP and YSRCP’s no-confidence motions will be clubbed and taken up together. On Thursday, the TDP had offered to back the YSRCP’s no-confidence motion but withdrew the support as it smelt a nexus between its rival and the BJP. The TDP alleged YSRCP MP Vijaysai Reddy was making attempts to meet the PM.

Opposition parties expressed surprise at the Speaker’s decision to not take up the no-confidence motion, particularly when the Finance Bill was pushed through without any discussion on Wednesday.

“The brazen manner in which this government has passed Bills in Parliament but refused to admit a legitimate no-confidence motion, despite adequate signatures and numbers, is a travesty of democracy,” Congress Lok Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia said.

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who wants regional parties to come together to form a federal front, welcomed the TDP’s decision to quit the NDA and asked all opposition parties to work closely.

The no-confidence motion and the BJP’s defeats in the recent by-elections, particularly in Phulpur and Gorakhpur, have also triggered hectic repositioning among political parties, some of which believe the government might advance Lok Sabha elections.

Chirag Paswan, Lok Sabha MP and son of Lok Janshakti Party chief and Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, said his party continued to be in the NDA but the BJP’s defeats were a cause for concern, and indicated that the party needed to rework its strategy to repeat the performance of 2014 in 2019. Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad had some months ago described Paswan, seen as someone adept at jumping sinking ships, as a “mausam vaigyanik”, or someone with a knack to predict political weather.

The BJP, despite losing recent by-elections, still commands a majority of 275, including the Speaker in the Lok Sabha. The BJP has support of allies like the Janata Dal (United), the Shiromani Akali Dal and several other smaller parties.

The Shiv Sena, its biggest ally with 18 Lok Sabha seats, has said it may abstain from voting on the no-confidence motion. The Shiv Sena has an MP in the Union council of ministers, but has been threatening to sever its ties with the BJP.

In an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna, the Sena said the BJP’s by-election losses in Uttar Pradesh were a “defeat of ego and arrogance”. It predicted the BJP’s tally would come down by 110-seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. The BJP had won 282 seats in 2014.

In Tamil Nadu, the ruling All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), which is also the third-largest political party in the Lok Sabha, said its decision on the no-confidence motion would depend on whether the Centre was willing to constitute the Cauvery Management Board. Rival DMK and others said the AIADMK should use the opportunity to pressure the government.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the party would support the motion but asked the two regional parties to not play politics over the matter. The CPI will also support the no-confidence motion and so will the CPI(M) according to party leader Mohammad Salim.

As the Opposition counted its numbers, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said the country had full confidence in the PM as does the House. “The government has the numbers... We are ready to take up everything,” he said.

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti led by K Chandrasekhar Rao ruled out its support for the no-confidence motion against the NDA government, describing the move as a “political gimmick”. The TRS has 11 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

How the motion is moved

A no-confidence motion finds no mention in the Constitution. But Article 118 of the Constitution permits each House of Parliament to make its own rules for conducting business. According to Rule 198 of the Lok Sabha, any member may give a written notice before 10 am and the Speaker will read the motion in the House. If 50 MPs are in favour of the motion, the Speaker can allot a date for discussion within ten days. If a PM loses a motion of confidence, he has to resign and the President will pick another person who enjoys the confidence of the Lok Sabha.

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