The Shiv Sena sniping hurts but does not devastate as the party comes from the same side of the fence as the BJP in terms of ideology and approach. But the decision by Telugu Desam chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to leave the alliance with the BJP is expected to galvanise the Opposition, with the no confidence move being the first of a series of actions on the anvil.
Naidu has been on a whirligig since he formally announced the break, and has been speaking to all Opposition parties to secure the 50 MPs needed to sign bring in a no confidence motion in the LokSabha. His efforts have met with early success with the Congress (48 MPs), AIADMK (37), CPI(M) (9) adding to the TDP strength(16) and YSR Congress(9).
At first count, instead of just the 50 MPs required to move the motion, Naidu has now the support of at least 119 members of Parliament. And if the Shiv Sena and the Trinamool Congress also join, as they are being expected to, the numbers will increase substantially to give the BJP cause for worry. Not that it will lose the motion, but that two of its major allies in the ruling NDA—Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam have joined the Opposition against it.
The no-confidence on Monday will release a dynamics of its own. Which the BJP will not be able to dampen or curtail, as this is one democratic weapon of Parliament that has always —even when it has not brought down a government —drawn blood insofar as the government of the day is concerned . More so as its efficacy is inherent in the political atmosphere of the day as reflected in Parliament.
In this case too, the no confidence motion has acquired an importance of its own in the Opposition framework that can work as a catalyst for broader unity that is becoming visible already:
One, it will be an assertion of the larger Opposition against the ruling party with a recent ally of the BJP leading the motion. The debate itself will place the government in the dock and while it is no ones case that the government will fall, or even come close to it, it will feel the heat even in a House where the Opposition has minima; numbers.
Two, it will give a new impetus to Opposition unity with Naidu, YSR Congress now the newcomers to the fold. In the process it will be a major step in the formation of a Second Front, the first step for which was taken by Congress President Sonia Gandhi a few days ago with a dinner attended by at least 20 political parties.
Three, it will deal a moral/political blow to the BJP that will not be happy at defending itself on the eve of the Karnataka elections.
And four, Naidu who was feeling the pressure of Andhra Pradesh’s fiercely competitive politics, more so as none of the promises had been realised such as the special status demand, hopes to take the lead now. He has 16 MPs as against Jagmohan Reddy’s YSR nine MPs, and being the taller politician has already claimed centre stage within hours of leaving the BJP. Interestingly his relations with the Opposition parties are strong, with Naidu meeting Left and other leaders regularly despite his decision to ally with the BJP earlier.
The Sena has already been going hammer and tongs at the BJP declaring now that “the Modi wave is over.” Angry at being upstaged by the BJP in Maharashtra, the Sena has been in talks with the state Congress, making to clear that it is open to alliances in the forthcoming general elections with political parties other than the BJP. In Tamil Nadu, despite attempts by the BJP to strengthen relations, DMK chief Stalin made sure that his MPs attended Sonia Gandhi’s dinner in a signal that he is not willing to part ways with the Opposition parties he has worked with before.
The BJP is moving back into isolation. It is losing support of its allies, with even the Akali Dal according to sources within hanging on by “just a thread”. It support base is very critical of the BJP and while the party is not challenging the alliance at the moment, its strength has also come under a question mark. TDP’s exit is a major blow with not a single potential alliance for the BJP visible in the South Indian states.
“We will move into the Telugu Desam space” as declared by BJP leaders seems to be wishful thinking as Naidu and YSR Congress both have deep tentacles in Andhra Pradesh. That they are determined to beat back what has now emerged as their major opponent is clear from the verve and the enthusiasm with which Naidu has approached his break with the NDA. “We have not seen this Naidu since the United Front days,” a senior erstwhile Janata Dal leader said, “and of course we welcome it.”
It’s a question of survival now for the smaller regional parties under threat of being swallowed by the BJP they had allied with. The Shiv Sena has been flexing its muscles for a while now. The TDP has quit altogether. The JanataDal(U) is waiting for Nitish Kumar to react if at all, but several members are in touch with rival SharadYadav. Kumar, legislators close to Yadav said, “is finished politically” and it is just a matter of time for the Bihar MLAs to take a decision about their future.
Interestingly, the BijuJanata Dal that had shown little animosity to the BJP has suddenly woken up to possible extinction in the forthcoming polls. Against the Congress as well, the BJD has however been in touch with the regional parties making it clear in the process that it will not tie up with the BJP in any which way. Although BJD did not attend Sonia Gandhi’s dinner, it is in touch with Mamata Banerjee and the Left parties for possibilities before the LokSabha polls.