Telgu Desham Party MPs shout slogans demanding special status for the state of Andhra Pradesh during a protest outside Parliament in New Delhi on March 19, 2018. Photo: AFP / Prakash Singh

A no-confidence motion initiated by opposition parties against the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of India stalled on Monday as the Lower House of the Indian Parliament adjourned amid noisy protests.

Two parties, namely the YSR Congress and Telegu Desam Party TDP, both from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, led protests voicing a range of demands. The adjournment was the 11th time a parliamentary session had been disrupted since March 5.

The Andhra Pradesh parties have been at the forefront of ongoing protests in parliament after the TDP pulled out of the NDA coalition, demanding special category status for Andhra Pradesh. The demand originates out of the need for greater financial assistance to the state after the 2014 bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh as the state of Telangana was carved out of it.

“We joined the NDA in the first place only to protect our state’s interests in the aftermath of bifurcation. We waited for four years with the hope that the [central government] will honor all the promises but it only meted out injustice to us,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has said.

Political observers say the current no-confidence motion, which is the first against BJP since it came to power in 2014, is unlikely to topple the government but will serve a significant blow to it ahead of 2019’s general elections. It has the potential of prompting other NDA allies to table their own controversial regional demands.

Opposition has “no confidence” in BJP

The no-confidence motion moved by Naidu’s TDP and YSR Congress has created a battleground for the BJP.

The Congress and leftist parties have already lent their support to the motion. The Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which is in power in West Bengal, has also joined the brigade.

Farooq Abdullah, the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and head of the National Conference party, has supported the opposition. “I am in the opposition. Whatever the opposition does, I will do the same,” he said.

But not all opposition elements support the motion – including Shiv Sena, which recently broke away from an alliance with BJP in the state of Maharashtra. They are taking a neutral position on the issue, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant told Indian news agency ANI.

“Regional parties played a crucial role in BJP’s victory in 2014; but now they are being ignored”

Also, while the BJP’s regional ally in Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal, is supportive of Andhra Pradesh’s cause, it has stayed loyal to the Narendra Modi-led BJP. Its Member of Parliament Naresh Gujral told ANI, however: “Regional parties played a crucial role in BJP’s victory in 2014; but now they are being ignored.”

The motion could not be introduced, as first planned, on Friday, March 16 – also due to protests, over a range of issues. However, the lack of progress on that date was questioned by Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor, according to ANI, which quoted him in a tweet: “When a no-confidence motion is moved 50 MPs should stand in its support & 50 MPs stood, but Speaker said it cannot be considered as House is not in order. So, I want to ask what does govt fear? They have a huge majority in Lok Sabha [parliament’s lower house].”

As an indication of the political impact of the Andhra Pradesh issue coming into the limelight, the BJP’s National General Secretary, Ram Madhav, told the media his party was ready to do more than giving the state special status. His comments came following a meeting between state leaders and BJP’s party president, Amit Shah.

The BJP had earlier claimed the TDP’s exit from the alliance would give it scope to grow its own vote in Andhra Pradesh. However the saffron party will clearly be vulnerable in the state elections next year as TDP and YSR Congress — the two main regional parties—gang up against it.

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