The vote of confidence won by the BJP government in the state assembly last week has come in for sharp criticism and is being looked upon suspiciously. In fact, silence on part of the party, as well as its senior leaders, has contributed to it immensely. CM Devendra Fadnavis, instead of clearing the air, has challenged opposition parties to move a no-confidence motion against his government.
Be it on social media or at public debates, BJP’s win and the NCP’s support to it has become a topic of severe criticism. On the political front, Shiv Sena is using social media most effectively, and the Congress is leaving no chance to add fuel to it. BJP chief Amit Shah’s response to media queries on NCP’s support only furthered suspicion. “People will come to know about it at an appropriate time,” was his reply, when asked why his party took support from the Sharad Pawar-led NCP when the latter was the target of the BJP’s criticism in the election campaign.
Known for its organisational skills, the BJP had devised a well-planned strategy to face the vote of confidence. A group of senior legislators and ministers was supervising the movements of MLAs, their attendance in the House, and also the political movements at Vidhan Bhavan premises. But, what happened inside the House turned out to be a major embarrassment for the party.
It was said that there was a clear-cut understanding with the Sena and NCP. BJP had held at least five meetings with Sena leaders, and a few with the NCP’s. As per the understanding with the NCP, its MLAs did nothing when the motion of confidence was put to vote. In an event of last-minute trouble, the NCP was expected to cast their vote to bail out the government. But, the motion was approved with a voice vote.
On the other hand, the Sena had been assured of the announcement of the leader of Opposition. The talks between the two parties over joining the cabinet had failed the previous day. Sena leaders were sceptical about the announcement on the leader of Opposition, presuming that the BJP man, who was to assume charge as speaker of the House, would defer it till the winter session. And, he could have done it, saying he wanted to study Congress’ claim for the post.
It is believed to have been decided that Sena members would stage a walkout as soon the motion was moved. But, the suspicion over Opposition leader’s post led to some confusion.
It so happened that the order of the day, drafted for the state assembly the previous night, had no mention of the leader of opposition. But, the developments that took place around midnight led to changes which BJP leaders claimed they were unaware of. When assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde decided to change the order, the Sena members got agitated.
When Bagde decided to take up first the agenda item for the vote of trust motion, a majority of the Sena members trooped to the well, followed by Congress members. In this melee, the Speaker put the motion to vote and announced it as passed by voice vote. Voices that came from the opposition benches demanding a poll lacked strategy or vigour, as they did not come when they should have come. Had the Sena and Congress members been so serious about the poll, their members would have preferred to remain in their seats, and the voices for poll might have come in unison. Later, when Sena members staged walkout it was too late.
Even though the NCP was silent during the trust vote, news reports said it was won with the help of the NCP. The Congress strategy, too, came under suspicion. What its MLAs did, later appeared more like an attempt to show that they had opposed the decision vigorously.
One thing is clear; the state BJP is acting as per the script drafted by its central unit. State leaders do not appear too happy about the NCP’s role at the behest of the central leaders. The Sena has also fallen in the BJP’s trap. The so-called talks on ministerial berths have been shrouded in mystery. BJP has changed leaders discussing the offers made to Sena too often.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led party has been made to start the subject afresh whenever BJP changes its faces for discussions. At one point the Sena was agreeable to as many cabinet berths as the BJP wanted to offer. But, the final word is still to come, leading to questions over Thackeray’s own diplomatic skills.
The writer is Political Editor of mid-day