New Delhi | A no-confidence motion by the Congress against the Narendra Modi government was admitted in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, setting the stage for a showdown between the opposition and treasury benches amid concerted efforts by the anti-BJP bloc to force Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak on the contentious Manipur issue in Parliament.
Admitting the motion moved by Congress MP from Assam Gaurav Gogoi after a head count of 50 members in its support, a mandatory requirement, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said a date for a discussion on the motion will be decided after consulting the leaders of all parties.
Sources in the opposition bloc said Birla has called a meeting of floor leaders of all parties in Lok Sabha on Thursday. As per the convention, once admitted the discussion on the motion has to be held within 10 days. The Monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to end on August 11.
Although this no-confidence motion is bound to fail the numbers test, the opposition bloc Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) leaders argue that they will win the battle of perception by cornering the government on the Manipur issue and forcing Modi to speak on the matter in Parliament.
This is the second time that the Modi government is facing a no-confidence motion since 2014. The first no-trust motion against the Modi government in Lok Sabha was moved on July 20, 2018. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) scored a thumping win with 325 MPs voting against the motion and only 126 supporting it.
The Lok Sabha currently has a strength of 543 seats of which five are vacant. The BJP-led NDA has over 330 members, the opposition alliance has over 140 and nearly 60 members belong to parties not aligned to any of the two groups.
While the Congress demanded that the debate on the motion of no-confidence should start from Thursday itself, Union ministers asserted that the government is ready for it as people have confidence in Prime Minister Modi.
Addressing a press conference, Congress MP Manish Tewari said this no-confidence motion has not been brought by the Congress alone but is the collective motion of all the constituent parties of INDIA.
"For the last over 84 days, the law and order system has broken down in Manipur, communities are divided, there is nothing in the name of the government there...all this compelled us to bring a no-confidence motion against the government," Tewari said.
The opposition parties have been demanding that the Prime Minister should give an elaborate statement in both Houses on why the situation reached this extent in Manipur, he said.
"We want the Prime Minister to give a detailed response to the no-confidence motion," he said.
"According to rules when a no-confidence motion is admitted, discussion is held within 10 days but the convention of the House is that when the no-confidence motion is brought and it is said that the House has lost confidence in the government, then all business should be put on hold and giving priority, the Lok Sabha Speaker should begin the discussion on this tomorrow itself. This is our demand," Tewari asserted.
After Lok Sabha met at noon and papers were laid on the table, the Speaker informed the House that he has received a notice from Gogoi,"expressing a want of confidence in the Council of Ministers under rule 198. I request Gaurav Gogoi to seek the permission of the House for it." Birla said the notice states: "This House expresses want of confidence in the council of ministers." After Gogoi, Deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, sought the permission of the House for the motion, Birla asked
members in favour of granting permission to admit the motion to stand up in their places for a head count.
MPs belonging to the opposition bloc INDIA, including Congress parliamentary party chief Sonia Gandhi, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah, DMK's T R Baalu and NCP leader Supriya Sule, stood up for the headcount. Birla then admitted the motion of no-confidence.
Opposition MPs from 13 parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, CPI, CPI(M), Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction), JD(U), and AAP also stood up for the headcount.
Earlier, the K Chandrashekar Rao-led Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), which has nine MPs and is not a part of the INDIA bloc, had also submitted a notice to move a no-confidence motion against the government through its MP Nama Nageshwar Rao.
Asked about the opposition move, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said people have confidence in Prime Minister Modi and in the BJP.
"They had done that in the last term also and people had taught them a lesson and will do so again," he said.
Joshi's ministerial colleague Arjun Ram Meghwal said let the no-confidence motion come, the government is ready.
Congress MP Manickam Tagore said the INDIA bloc is together and this is the idea of the alliance.
"We feel that it is our duty to use this last weapon to break the arrogance of the government and make the Prime Minister speak on Manipur," Tagore asserted.
A no-confidence motion can be moved by any member of the Lok Sabha. Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Lok Sabha specifies the procedure for moving a no-confidence motion. The member has to give a written notice of the motion before 10 am which will be read out by the Speaker in the House.
A minimum of 50 members have to support the motion and the Speaker will accordingly announce the date for discussion for the motion. The allotted date has to be within 10 days from the day the motion is accepted. If not, the motion fails and the member who moved the motion has to be informed about it. If the government is not able to prove its majority in the House, it has to resign.
The decision to move the motion in Lok Sabha was taken in a meeting attended by opposition MPs in Parliament on Tuesday morning.
At the meeting of the opposition leaders, it was decided after weighing various options that this would be an effective way to compel the government to initiate a discussion on the issue, one of the alliance leaders said.
The opposition strategy to corner the government on Manipur will continue in the Rajya Sabha as well, the leader said.
The opposition has been demanding that Modi make a statement on the Manipur issue in Parliament before a debate on the matter can be taken up, a demand not accepted by the government.
With the opposition and treasury bench members not relenting, a logjam has been prevailing in both Houses since the start of the Monsoon session on July 20. More than 160 people have lost their lives and several hundreds have been injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3.