- Shiv Sena decided to stay away from the no-confidence vote
- The change of stance was conveyed to party legislators this morning
- On Thursday, Amit Shah had phoned Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray
In a huge embarrassment to the ruling BJP, ally Shiv Sena decided to stay away from the no-confidence vote in parliament. On Thursday, BJP chief Amit Shah had phoned Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray requesting his support.
The decision coincided with an all-out attack in the Sena mouthpiece Saamana, which carried an editorial saying: "Those ruling the country are butchers, who save animals but kill humans."
Uddhav Thackeray's overnight change of stance and decision to abstain was conveyed to party legislators this morning at a meeting held in parliament.
"Shiv Sena is the party which always follows directive of party chief. We have decided to take a principled stand after the government made so many mistakes on land acquisition, demonetization," the Sena's Anandrao Adsul told NDTV after the meeting.
"We always fight for the people, no one has supported us. So we have nothing to do with Telugu Desam Party's motion," he added.
Yesterday, the Sena's chief whip in the Lok Sabha, Chandrakant Khaire, had issued a whip or order to MPs asking them to be present in the house when the motion was discussed, and support the government. The party is now denying issuing such a whip.
Mr Adsul said the party's lone minister in the central government, Anant Geete, would not go to the Lok Sabha today.
"We are with the NDA (BJP-led National Democratic Alliance) now, we can't say about tomorrow," Mr Adsul said, adding, "Yes, it's an embarrassment."
The government has enough numbers to defeat the motion, which is seen by the BJP as well as opposition parties as a chance to be heard before a string of elections -- the state polls later this year and the general election in 2019.
The Shiv Sena has repeatedly said that it will be fighting the 2019 election alone.
After Amit Shah's conversation with Uddhav Thackeray, top BJP sources had expressed confidence that its estranged ally, which has been targeting it relentlessly over the past few years, had come around and would vote with the government in the no-trust vote.
Hours later, the Sena shifted its stance and said Uddhav Thackeray had asked his party MPs to stay in Delhi and a final decision on supporting the Modi government would be taken this morning before the debate started.
"Sena MPs have been asked to remain absent by Uddhav ji during the voting on the no-confidence motion," a close aide of the Sena chief told news agency Press Trust of India.
Sena's editorial in Saamana questioned the mandate with which the Modi government came to power, alleging that elections were won through money, misuse of power and tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
"Those ruling the country today are butchers, who save animals but kill humans. There is absolute lack of compassion (in the minds of the rulers)... Winning elections and remaining in power by hook or crook is not democracy. Majority is never permanent. Country's people are supreme," it said.
The Sena also said the BJP must introspect why allies like the TDP, which moved the no-trust motion, were turning against it. "After 25 years of alliance, you (BJP) mistrusted us for your ego. But ultimately the ego was crushed after you faced repeated losses in the by-polls in the country," said the editorial.