All said and done, the anti-BJP Opposition was better off without Friday’s trust vote---with a plethora of parties combining against the ruling alliance they gave the impression of a fairly formidable phalanx.
When the no-confidence motion was put to vote late on Friday, the Opposition’s combined vote was a mere 126 while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) added up to an impressive 325. Others whose votes were not counted were in the category of ‘undecided’ or ‘abstentions.’
All the bravado about the might of the Opposition which could shake the foundations of the NDA in the Lok Sabha elections next year stood punctured. Interestingly, it looked like Narendra Modi versus the rest which is what the BJP wanted.
The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine now know somewhat clearly which parties to work on for 2019. By walking out soon after the debate on the motion began, the Biju Janata Dal signalled that it trusts neither the Congress nor the BJP.
The Shiv Sena has been a recurringly unreliable ally under Uddhav Thackeray. For a while it appeared that BJP president Amit Shah had managed to win over Uddhav when the Shiv Sena announced that it would oppose the motion and stand by the BJP. But as the new day began on Friday, the party was back to its familiar ways. It instructed its members to abstain on the vote.
The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is rarely on firm ground. It finally voted with the NDA but spoke in the debate as though it was opposed to the Narendra Modi government. Considering that thanks to late J Jayalalithaa, the party has a whopping 37 members in the Lok Sabha it has an undoubted air of importance but the current ruling dispensation is a pale shadow of what it was in Amma’s days.
The strange thing about Telugu Desam was that it was totally self-obsessed. It was its own motion that the other opposition parties were supporting but the TDP had nothing to say about the demands of the rest of the Opposition. It made one wonder if the TDP is still open to re-joining the NDA if the special status demand is met.
With the quality of the debate touching abysmal levels and Congress president Rahul Gandhi displaying crass immaturity and lack of depth, it was left to the redoubtable Narendra Modi to lend a measure of brilliance to the otherwise dull proceedings.
Modi’s digs at Rahul were sharp and scathing, yet in a way subtle. While Rahul mocked Modi that he was not looking into his eyes, Modi turned the tables on him by saying that he was but a small man with a modest lineage while Rahul was a man of high lineage.
Modi added that leaders like Netaji Subhash Bose, Jayaprakash Narayan, Vallabhai Patel, Charan Singh, Morarji, Sharad Pawar, Chandrashekar had all tried looking in the eye but the country saw how they were insulted.
On the Congress propensity of calling everything Modi does as a ‘jumla’, Modi tore into Rahul for calling the surgical strikes against Pakistan and the Chinese standoff with India troops at the border mere jumlas.
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Alluding to Atal Behari Vajpayee’s formation of three states—Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand—Modi said he did so peacefully but the Congress divided Andhra Pradesh and its conduct was shameful.
When Rahul went over to Modi and sprung a surprise by hugging him, the Prime Minister said ‘why are you in such a hurry to come to power,’ in a subtle dig at him.
Taking another dig at Rahul and earlier seeking a postponement, Modi said: "If you were not prepared for the debate why did you bring the motion? Why such a tearing rush to bring down the government? Would the sky have fallen or a bhukamp (earthquake) come.” The word Bhukamp drew laughter from the government benches, since the word was associated with Rahul Gandhi's promised "earthquake".
Alluding to Sonia Gandhi’s boast that the Congress would win the no-confidence vote, Modi reminded her of an earlier occasion when she had made the same boast which proved hollow. “What arrogance!’ he added.
Indeed, the no-trust motion was a Modi show all the way even as Rahul and the Congress came out as poor losers.