Mamata Banerjee's plan to move a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government in the Winter Session of Parliament has been met with wariness by other opposition parties like the Left and the BJP. Instead of throwing their weight behind the idea, the two fronts, which have been relentlessly attacking the UPA, have issued caution notices claiming a no-trust vote could just boomerang and end up helping the government.
This apparent reluctance to fully and openly back Ms Banerjee's plan gave the government enough confidence to mock her efforts. "Never has a 19-member party brought a no confidence motion. And it's even stranger that the party first announces the motion and then starts looking for support," information and broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari said at a media briefing. A no-confidence motion needs signed by at least 50 MPs for it to be tabled.
That number will be tough to get, since the neither the BJP nor the Left look very warm to the proposal. Both the NDA and the Left fear that a no-trust vote, if defeated, will also embolden the government to say that all its policies have been endorsed.
Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi articulated why the BJP is not excited about Mamata Banerjee's no-trust motion plan when he said, "If the numbers are not adequate and the motion fails, the government becomes safe for the next six months within which another such motion cannot be brought. If the motion is passed and the government falls, you have to think of the next course of action."
Ms Banerjee is also understood to have spoken to BJP's Sushma Swaraj, who is also leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, about the issue, but there has been no clear and public response to that yet.
The BJP-led NDA will meet on November 20 to finalise their strategy.
The CPM has formally asked for discussion and vote on the issue of FDI in Parliament, but given their long and virulent opposition to Ms Banerjee, they too are cold to the no-confidence motion. Even the the CPI, whose leader Gurudas Dasgupta has said that it will back a no-trust vote against the government, is now suggesting that it was his personal opinion, rather than the party line.
The Winter Session opens this Thursday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Cambodia yesterday only after consolidating his government's numbers in Parliament. His lunch with BSP's Mayawati and dinner with SP's Mulayam Singh Yadav is being seen as his stitch-a-majority-before-the-session move.
Ms Banerjee, who walked out of the government in September plunging it into a minority, says as such it had no authority to push a major policy like allowing Foreign Direct Investment in retail through an executive decision.
The BJP and its allies like the JD(U) and these Left parties would prefer to debate and vote on the core issue of Foreign Direct Investment in retail - they believe that parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which provide external support to the government and even the DMK, which is part of the government, will back the government in a no-trust vote, but are vocally opposed to FDI in retail and so would be forced to distance themselves during a vote on that policy.
The government though has remained confident of its numbers. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said today, "Here is a decision which is in executive domain which requires no legislative approval. In the history of Indian parliamentary democracy, an executive decision has never been dragged into Parliament motions. The government is confident of convincing the majority." And the Congress' Jayanthi Natarajan said, "Mamata Banerjee will find that if she brings a no confidence motion, she will be defeated with a resounding majority. We will show her our strength."
With the Samajwadi Party's 22 MPs and the Bahujan Samaj Party's 21, the UPA government has about 300 MPs in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, comfortably over the half-way mark at 273. At yet another dinner on Friday, this time for members of the UPA, the PM reportedly managed to get the DMK to agree that the government should avoid a vote on the new policy, and should offer a debate under rule 193, where a discussion is not followed by a vote.