India’s Modi to face no-confidence vote over Manipur violence

Narendra Modi’s BJP has a clear majority in the lower house of parliament, so the vote is unlikely to affect the government’s stability.

Narendra Modi greets his cabinet colleagues.
Indian PM Narendra Modi had not commented in public about the Manipur violence until last week [File: Manish Swarup/AP]

India’s parliament has authorised a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government by an alliance of opposition parties, to force the Hindu nationalist leader to address in detail concerns about ethnic clashes in a northeastern state.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a clear majority of 301 members in the 542-seat lower house of parliament, so the no-confidence vote will not affect its stability.

The opposition instead wants to trigger a debate about the violence in remote, BJP-ruled Manipur state, in which more than 130 people have been killed and 60,000 displaced since it began in early May.

Approving the opposition motion, lower house speaker Om Birla on Wednesday said he would soon decide when the debate and vote would take place.

A no-confidence motion is submitted in the Lok Sabha, as the parliament’s lower house is known, if at least 50 members support it.

Raghav Chadha of the Aam Aadmi Party, one of the members of the opposition coalition, said: “In India’s parliamentary history, critical instruments of debate, dialogue and discussion within parliament are exercised… regardless of the outcome”.

[They] are exercised with the sole objective of a long-duration discussion on an important issue and to compel the prime minister of India to come to parliament and respond to the issues raised by the people and the members,” he said, according to a statement shared by his party on Twitter.

Kodikunnil Suresh, a Congress legislator, said Modi is ignoring the opposition’s longstanding demand of an appearance in parliament.

“The prime minister is not ready to make a statement. The prime minister has to come to the parliament and make the statement. Manipur is burning,” he told reporters.

The ethnic tensions in the small state of 3.2 million people are seen as a security and political failure by Modi’s government, which will face a national election by May 2024.

Modi had not commented in public about the violence until last week, when videos showing two women being paraded naked and assaulted by a mob in Manipur surfaced, sparking national outrage.

Modi condemned the mass assault as “shameful” and promised tough action against the perpetrators.

Opposition parties have, however, disrupted the monsoon session of parliament which began last week, to demand a detailed statement by Modi on Manipur in parliament, followed by a debate.

As head of the government, he will have to respond to the no-confidence motion before it is put to vote.

The government has offered a statement from Home Minister Amit Shah, saying internal security is his ministry’s responsibility.

The violence in Manipur began on May 3 after a court ordered the state government to consider extending special economic benefits and quotas in government jobs and education enjoyed by the tribal Kuki-Zo people – who are mainly Christian – to the majority Hindu Meitei population as well.

Shashi Tharoor, a leader of the main opposition Congress party, said the government must invest time in answering questions about Manipur.

“Everyone knows that Manipur has witnessed horrendous loss of lives in violence, sexual assault and displacement. How can this not be the main agenda?” Tharoor told Reuters news agency.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies