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Modi 3.0: Will It Be An Easy Ride?

By SHYAM PAREKH
June 09, 2024 12:51 IST
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Modi has proven to be a past master in the art of political survival.
This means that learning to navigate the choppy waters of coalition government will be an art he will not take long to master, argues Shyam Parekh.

 

IMAGE: A National Democratic Alliance delegation called on President Droupadi Murmu, June 7, 2024 and a letter stating that Narendra Modi had been elected leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party Parliamentary Party was handed over to the President.
Letters of support from NDA constituent parties were also handed over to the President. Photograph: ANI Photo

One question is puzzling everyone.

Will Narendra D Modi deliver a strong and stable government in his third term, without losing a decisive edge that would let him have a free hand?

Will his reign be muted and leashed by the coalition partners?

Economic prosperity of the country depends a lot on the stability of the government.

Will it be impacted? Or will he cock a snook and continue to have his way?

  • 1991: Congress Initially led by Rajiv Gandhi and after his death, by P V Narasimha Rao, won 232 seats in the 10th Lok Sabha. The BJP emerged as the main Opposition with 120 seats.
  • The Congress tally was 40 short of an absolute majority of 272 seats, required to form the government.
  • Rao formed a minority government with external support from the Janata Dal and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
  • After one year, in 1992, after Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir elections, the Congress tally improved to 244 seats.
  • Rao's government completed full five years of its term and brought in economic liberalisation that changed India forever.
  • In spite of many controversies in his time, including the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, his government remained firmly in power.
  • 2024: The Narendra Modi-led BJP gets 240 seats in the 18th Lok Sabha and the tally along with its partners in the National Democratic Alliance stands at 293 seats.
  • The Congress gets 99 seats and the tally along with its partners in the INDIA Bloc stands at 232 seats.

IMAGE: Modi welcomed by NDA leaders on his arrival for the NDA Parliamentary Party meeting, June 7, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

The 18th Lok Sabha election results declared on June 4, 2024 seemed unprecedented and shocked almost everyone.

The question that everyone wants answered is whether Prime Minister Modi in his third term can give a government as stable as he did in the previous two terms?

It is natural to have this question as the BJP secured 63 and 42 fewer seats respectively than its 2019 and 2014 election tally.

In previous terms, having crossed the half-way mark of 272 seats, Modi enjoyed a clear majority in Parliament.

Which means the survival of his government was not dependent on coalition partners.

This situation did not allow the coalition partners much bargaining power and they could not keep the government under a leash.

This allowed the PM to act as he willed, without the fear of loss of support in the Lok Sabha.

But with the BJP getting only 240 seats, it will fall short of 32 members when it has to prove its majority in Parliament, or pass bills that require at least 273 votes.

It will have to depend on the support of its coalition partners to achieve this numerical strength in the Lok Sabha.

And history is witness that most governments are left vulnerable to the whims and fancies and arm twisting by coalition partners when they seek their support at times when it matters the most.

IMAGE: Modi pays respect to the Constitution of India. Photograph: ANI Photo

Will the 40-odd member parties' strong NDA -- with 15 of its constituent parties with at least one elected member in the 18th Lok Sabha -- allow Modi to exercise freedom in decision making.

The numbers clearly indicate that N Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party with 16 seats and the Janata Dal-United with 12 seats will be the BJP's two biggest supporters to keep the NDA in power.

But if one of these two members of the alliance threaten to withdraw support, the rest of the NDA constituents still have sufficient strength to keep the NDA in power.

The issue of the government's stability will come into the picture when the prime minister has to prove his majority in the Lok Sabha in case of a no confidence motion against his government or when he wishes to push through major bills, or when he wants to introduce bills that warrant a change in the fundamental federal structure of the Constitution.

Looking at Modi's four terms as Gujarat chief minister or two terms as prime minister, one thing that emerges is that he has always enjoyed an absolute majority and ruled on his own strength.

This will be his first experience of ruling with borrowed support.

IMAGE: Nitish Kumar and N Chandrababu Naidu in conversation. Photograph: ANI Photo

Modi has consistently proven all political calculations and expectations wrong, time and again.

He has proven to be a past master in the art of political survival.

This essentially means that learning to navigate the choppy waters of coalition government will be an art he will not take long to master.

Also, defections and re-elections in the future can change the balance of power in the BJP's favour in the Lok Sabha in the next five years.

The government's stability would be a factor of concern only when the Modi government tries to bring in major reforms. Are they likely?

From Modi's victory address to the BJP party after the election results, it is clear that by using the term 'bade fainsle', he is indicating a plan for drastic steps in his third tenure.

Some of the major Constitutional amendments will require a special majority in Parliament -- of more than two-third members and ratification by at least 50% of the state legislatures.

IMAGE: Modi being felicitated by Naidu and Pawan Kalyan. Photograph: ANI Photo

If he manages to keep the tried and tested NDA coalition together, the rest should be easy.

Another advantage he will enjoy in the third term will be an increased number of states and Union Territories ruled by the BJP and NDA governments.

It will be easier for Modi to bring in drastic changes.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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