The Trinamool Congress appears to be planning to step up the heat on the Union Government over demonetisation. After taking the lead in protests against the move and making radical statements about 'overthrowing the Narendra Modi government', Trinamool may be preparing to up the ante by deploying the final political weapon available with opposition parties, a no-confidence motion.
However, it is quite likely to eventually turn into only a symbolic protest without any actual impact.
Trinamool MPs reportedly told journalists in Parliament on 9 December that they are planning to bring the motion next week, when the Parliament reconvenes after a four-day break.
A no-confidence motion, quite simply, is a parliamentary instrument invoked by the Opposition to ask the government of the day to resign because it no longer has confidence of the Parliament.
Bringing the motion is the first hurdle. It can only be introduced in the Lok Sabha and the Speaker needs to first allow the motion to be moved. It then needs the support of at least 50 members. Then the house debates and votes on the motion. If a majority votes in favour, the government is bound to resign.
Two key hurdles
In Trinamool's case, moving the motion is the smaller problem because the party has 34 MPs of its own. If it does bring the motion and succeeds in getting the Speaker's permission to read it, it will need support of 16 more MPs to be accepted for moving.
These 16 could come from among the 44 MPs of the the largest opposition party, the Congress. These could also come using a combination of MPs from other opposition parties, like CPI(M) (9 MPs), CPI (1), AAP (4), RJD (4), YSRCP (9), NCP (6).
The bigger problem is that the fate of the motion is a foregone conclusion, because the government is in a brute majority in the lower house. Once the motion is defeated, the Trinamool will be left with only a token significance of having made a point about the extent to which it is ready to go to oppose demonetisation. But will that be termed a 'major success'?
Lack of opposition unity
Since the plan itself in a formative stage, the party doesn't appear to have approached other parties for their view on it.
The Congress and CPI(M) are highly unlikely to support the motion, because they are bitter opponents of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government in West Bengal.
In fact, their opposition has reached such a critical juncture in the state that they together brought a no-confidence motion against the government in the state assembly recently. The motion fell, but introduced greater antagonism in the government-opposition relationship.
The two parties also did not join the Mamata-led march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan against demonetisation at the beginning of the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
Some unity has emerged of late and MPs of Trinamool, CPI(M) and Congress have often been seen together in protests inside the Parliament since. But a no-confidence motion is a different ball-game altogether and it is just not on any other party's radar.
Will it mean inviting defeat?
CPI(M) MP Mohd Salim told Catch that a no-confidence motion will simply mean allowing the government to get away. He reiterated his party's demand for a JPC probe into the issue while also asserting that they want the entire Opposition to put up a united front in the Parliament. We will support whatever form of protest on which there is consensus, he added.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar was clear in his opinion that to call for a no-confidence motion is to call for defeat. He said his party has said in the Lok Sabha that a discussion should be held, be it under any rule.
"Let the government demonstrate that it is ready to discuss the issue and let it allow our leader Rahul Gandhi to speak," Aiyar added.
A deja vu moment for Trinamool
Interestingly, Trinamool Congress has deployed this weapon in the past as well. In the previous Lok Sabha, Banerjee had pushed for a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government in 2012 after walking out of the governing UPA coalition.
She was against the government's decisions to bring a cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, raise diesel prices and introduce FDI in multi-brand retail.
However, Trinamool's plan fell apart as the motion wasn't even accepted because of lack of the required support. Trinamool then had only 19 MPs then and failed to drum up the support of 31 other members.
Trinamool spokesperson Derek O'Brien said, "It has not yet been decided whether Trinamool will bring a no-confidence motion. All things will be decided in the Opposition party meeting to be held at the Parliament on Wednesday."