A Look at the History of No-Confidence Motions, as Modi Government Faces Its Second

Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi submitted the no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government on Tuesday, which was accepted by the speaker.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is all set to face its second no-confidence motion in parliament after the Congress moved a motion to this effect on Wednesday, July 26.

Congress’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi submitted the no-confidence motion on Tuesday.

This motion is meant to test whether the government of the day enjoys the confidence of the majority of the house, as under a parliamentary democracy, a government can only be in power if it commands the majority in the directly elected house.

Article 75(3) of the Indian constitution states that the Council of Ministers shall be responsible to the House of the People.

Under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Lok Sabha, a member has to move a written notice before 10 am, which will be read out by the speaker within 10 days of the written motion being submitted.

Once the speaker reads out the motion in the House, a minimum of 50 members will have to rise in support of it for the speaker to give a date or dates for discussion of the motion.

Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla has accepted the no-confidence motion moved by Gogoi and informed the house that a date will be set soon.

The present motion will be the 28th no-confidence motion since Independence in the Lok Sabha and the second faced by the Modi government.

The first no-confidence motion

The first no-confidence motion was moved against the Jawaharlal Nehru government in 1963 by Acharya J.B. Kripalani over the prime minister’s China policy, immediately after the 1962 war.

According to G.C. Malhotra’s book Cabinet Responsibility to Legislature: Motions of Confidence and No-Confidence in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures, available in the Parliament digital library, the debate lasted 21 hours and 33 minutes spread over four days (August 19-22, 1963).

The motion was supported by 44 members and when it was put to vote, 62 voted in favour while 347 MPs voted against it.

Indira Gandhi faced 15 no-confidence motions in her 16-year tenure

Indira Gandhi faced the most number of no-confidence motions in the history of independent India, with 15 motions during her 16-year tenure (1966-77 and then from 1980 to her assassination in October 1984) as prime minister.

There were 12 motions of no-confidence in her first stint, including one moved by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1967, and three in her second.

Indira Gandhi. Photo: Public.Resource.Org/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Fall of a government through a no-confidence motion

The sixth Lok Sabha saw a non-Congress party in power for the first time, when a new government led by Morarji Desai won an overwhelming majority.

Desai faced two no-confidence motions. While he won the first one, the discussion on the second remained inconclusive but led to the fall of his government.

This motion was moved against Desai by Y.B. Chavan (Congress I) on July 11, 1979, and claimed that there was a loss of confidence in the government in all walks of life.

After the discussion remained inconclusive, Desai on July 15 tendered his resignation to president Neelam Sanjiva Reddy.

Prime ministers who faced no-confidence motions

A look at the no-confidence motions faced by all prime ministers in independent India reveals that Lal Bahadur Shastri and P.V. Narasimha Rao faced three motions while Morarji Desai and Atal Bihari Vajpayee faced two motions each.

Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi faced one motion each. 

Prime ministers Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral did not face any such motion.

Rao’s third no-confidence motion mired in controversy

Rao faced three no-confidence motions and defeated all of them. But the third one faced by his government was mired in controversy.

In July 1993, Rao faced a no-confidence motion moved by the CPI(M) member Ajoy Mukhopadhyay. He won the vote with a narrow margin – 251 votes against his government to 265 votes in favour.

According to a PTI report, a year later, there was a scandal when it surfaced that Shibhu Soren of the Jharkhand Janmukti Morcha (JMM) and his four MPs had been paid bribes to vote in favour of the Rao government.

In 1998, the Supreme Court held in the P.V. Narasimha Rao versus CBI case that parliamentarians had immunity under the constitution against criminal prosecution for any speech made and vote cast inside the house.

Under Article 105(2) of the constitution, no MP shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in parliament or any committee thereof. 

MLAs on the other hand are granted protection under Article 194(2).

The Union government last November backed the 1998 judgment.

Vajpayee years

Prior to Modi, the last BJP government that faced a no-confidence motion was in 2003, when Vajpayee faced one moved by Sonia Gandhi.

Vajpayee, however, defeated the motion by a margin of 125 votes.

Vajpayee was also prime minister for two short stints in 1996 and again from 1998-99. He had moved three motions of confidence, trying to prove his majority in the house.

He lost the third one in April 1999 by just one vote – which resulted in the premature dissolution of the 12th Lok Sabha because the opposition was also not able to muster the numbers to form a government.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Photo: PTI/Files

Modi’s no-confidence motion in 2018

The no-confidence motion moved by the Congress will be the second one faced by Modi in his nine-year tenure.

In 2018, Modi defeated his first no-confidence motion. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had named all opposition members who had moved similar no-confidence motions and said Telugu Desam Party’s Kesineni Srinivas would move his motion as his name had come up in the lottery.

After a raging 12-hour debate, the Modi government defeated the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by 199 votes. 

A total of 126 members supported the motion, while 325 MPs rejected it.

The debate is remembered for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi embracing the prime minister after delivering a speech in which he questioned the government and Modi’s silence on the rising crimes against minorities and women, as well as the government’s contentious role in the Rafale deal, and the impact of demonetisation.