Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action: Unraveling No Confidence Motions and Their Significance.
Democracy in Action

Recently on July 26, 2023, our country witnessed A no-confidence motion in Loksabha by Congress party MP Gaurav Gogoi. Loksabha speaker Om Birla accepted the request of the MP and told that he will discuss it with all parties and introduce the motion within 10 days in the Loksabha. What is a No-confidence motion and why speaker asked 10 days to introduce the motion in parliament? A "no confidence motion" is a formal means for members of a legislature or parliament to express their lack of trust in the present administration or its leadership. It is often presented as a resolution declaring that the existing administration is incapable of leading

or has lost the majority's support. A resolution of no-confidence against the Council of Ministers may be introduced at any moment by any member of the Lok Sabha who can secure the support of 50 of their peers. There is no mention of a no-confidence motion in the Constitution of India whereas it is present under Rule no.198 of Loksabha proceedings.

In the constitution, Article 75(3) refers that Lok Sabha will be held jointly responsible by the Council of Ministers. In August 1963, Parliament witnessed the first-ever "No Confidence Motion" against the administration of then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Acharya JB Kripalani proposed this resolution in August 1963, but only 62 people voted in favor of it, and 347 people opposed it. The current administration will lose its majority in the house and be forced to step down from office if more than 50% of MPs support the motion of no-confidence. There will be an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that they have a majority in the house. Some Procedures need to be followed while introducing the no-confidence motion in parliament. Only in the Lok Sabha and by the opposition may a motion of no confidence be introduced. If the motion is approved by the house with the backing of at least 50 members, it will be admitted. 

Rule 198(1)(a) states that when the Speaker calls for a member to make a motion, they must first obtain permission to do so.

Rule 198(1)(b) states that the member requesting the leave must notify the Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha in writing by 10 AM on the day the motion is intended to be moved.

If the notice is received after 10 AM, it will be considered to have been received the following day that the house sits.

Rule 198(2) states that the Speaker must read the motion to the entire chamber if they believe it to be in order and ask the members who support it to take their seats.

The Speaker states that the leave is granted if the motion receives the support of at least 50 members. The motion is discussed within ten days of the date the leave was requested.

Rule 198(3) states that if leave is granted, the Speaker may set aside a day or part of a day or days for discussion of the motion. The situation of business in the house is taken into account before doing this.

Rule 198(4) states that at the designated hour on the designated day, the Speaker must ask every question required to ascertain the House's decision on the motion.

Rule 198(5) states that the Speaker may set a time limit for addresses. The Government must leave the position if the motion is approved by the House.

This motion is introduced as an ordinary resolution under specific parliamentary rules. It can be brought forward when no political party holds a clear majority, and a new Prime Minister is appointed by the President to prove their majority through a confidence vote in the parliament. Throughout India's parliamentary history since the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, the no-confidence motion has been employed several times, aiming to either topple the government or pressure it to address urgent national matters. The motion plays a crucial role in the parliamentary proceedings, as it allows members to express their loss of confidence in the ruling government.

However, passing a no-confidence motion is no easy feat, especially when the party in power holds a significant majority. Many attempts to bring down the government through such motions have failed, but there have been instances where the motion successfully received parliamentary approval. Opposition parties often use the no-confidence motion strategically to exert pressure on the government and initiate discussions on pressing national issues.

Over the years, some notable instances of no-confidence-confidence motions have shaped India's political landscape. For example, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi faced the no-confidence motion a remarkable 15 times, the highest on record. Jyoti Basu of the CPI(M) proposed the motion at least four times during his political career. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a prominent leader, presented the motion twice, losing power in 1999 after falling short by a single vote.

One of the most significant early instances occurred in 1978 when Morarji Desai's government became the first to lose a no-confidence motion. Despite saving the government once, Morarji Desai eventually resigned before the second vote, leading to the dissolution of his government. Similarly, in 1989, VP Singh's government was dissolved after the BJP withdrew its support.

In 1993, a no-confidence motion was filed against the government of Narasimha Rao, but he managed to secure the majority and save his government. However, in 1997, the United Front Government led by HD Deve Gowda had to resign as the Prime Minister when the Congress withdrew its support.

In March 1998, I.K. Gujral's United Front Government also resigned after failing to prove a majority. A close call occurred in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government missed winning the no-confidence motion by just one vote, leading to his resignation.

In 2008, the Congress Government faced a no-confidence motion over the nuclear deal with the U.S. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh narrowly survived the motion, proving his majority in the Lok Sabha by a marginal difference.

Apart from the no-confidence motion, both houses of Parliament have provisions to address urgent public matters. Members can give notices under various rules to draw attention to such issues and initiate discussions.

The no-confidence motion serves as a crucial democratic tool in India's parliamentary system, allowing members to voice their lack of confidence in the government. While successfully passing such a motion is challenging, it has been attempted numerous times throughout India's political history, leaving a lasting impact on the nation's governance and political landscape

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