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India's ruling party to face no-confidence vote, amid rise in mob violence

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Friday in the wake o...

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 1:51 PM
Updated: Jul 20, 2018 1:51 PM

India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to face a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Friday in the wake of a spate of mob attacks against minorities and high profile rape cases.

The vote is the first no-confidence motion to be approved by India's lower house in 15 years, though it is unlikely to trouble the BJP, who continue to hold a significant parliamentary majority.

Taking the floor on Friday, Rahul Gandhi, president of the main opposition Indian National Congress party, launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's failure to address the rise in violence and lawlessness gripping parts of India.

"In other countries, there is an opinion that for the first time in its history, India has not been able to protect its women," Gandhi, the scion of India's most famous political dynasty, said during his address to the lower house of parliament.

"It is the first time in India's history that we are garnering such a reputation. This has never happened before," said Gandhi.

"Indians are being beaten up, crushed and the Prime Minister hasn't uttered a word ... Do minorities, Dalits (lowest caste) and Adivasis (tribal community) not belong to this country? Are they from another country? Are women not from the country? Why doesn't the Prime Minister speak up when this happens?"

Much of the mob violence has been fueled by rumors spread on the messaging app WhatsApp.

Gandhi's comments followed an announcement from the company on Friday that the messaging app will begin limiting the ability of users in India to forward messages to more than five people.

A litmus test for Modi?

Modi, who is expected to address parliament around 6:30 p.m. New Delhi time, appeared relaxed ahead of the vote. In a statement posted to Twitter on Friday, the Prime Minister said the motion represented an "important day in our Parliamentary democracy."

"I am sure my fellow MP colleagues will rise to the occasion and ensure a constructive, comprehensive and disruption free debate. We owe this to the people and the makers of our Constitution," added Modi.

With 274 members, Modi's BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition has a clear majority in the 534-seat lower house of parliament.

The opposition Congress party and its United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition is hoping to gain political traction by using the vote to focus attention deteriorating law and order and also on slow job growth.

Economic change was the foundation of Modi's 2014 election campaign, which saw him oust the Congress-led UPA coalition government with a landslide victory.

But many of these reforms are yet to materialize and some have even impacted growth.

Two of Modi's biggest policy decisions, a sudden ban-of 86% of the country's cash followed by a sweeping-overhaul of the tax system, were widely blamed for a slump-that cut growth to its slowest pace in three years.

"The government failed in governance, misused power and failed to keep its promises," said senior Congress leader Anand Sharma in a news conference on Thursday.

"Prime Minister Modi is carried away by his own propaganda. He just believes that what he says is the truth, that this government has performed miracles. What we have seen, the destruction of this economy, the falsehood that is being spread and the agony of the people that is definitely a first which this government of the BJP has achieved in the country," Sharma added.

Speaking to CNN, political commentator Arati Jerath said that the no-confidence vote, though likely to fail, will be a good opportunity for opposition parties to raise the issues they feel are important.

"The Parliament has not been functioning properly for session after session and there have been many issues that the opposition has tried to debate, issues that it considers important like Dalit (lowest caste) attacks and lynching incidents. It is difficult to have these debates because the Parliament has been so disrupted," said Jerath.

Road map to 2019 polls

The BJP are looking to maintain its majority in India's next general elections, which are due by May 2019. But that outcome is far from certain.

In December, Modi narrowly won elections in his home state of Gujarat. And the BJP fell short of an outright majority in polls in the southern state of Karnataka in May.

The BJP has also lost-two key regional allies in its coalition. Last month, the Hindu-nationalist BJP pulled out of a coalition government with the Muslim-backed People's Democratic Party in the restive state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In March, the Telugu Desam Party in southern Andhra Pradesh state left the NDA coalition over the BJP's failure to meet election promises.

"This can be the start of their (opposition) campaign for the 2019 election," said Jerath.

"But the opposition parties will need to stand strong" if they are to have any reasonable chance at breaking the grip of Modi's coalition in the upcoming election, added Jerath.

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