IN PARLIAMENT

Why the Modi government isn’t keen on a no-confidence motion even though it has the numbers

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has not taken up no-trust notices moved by several Opposition parties.

Is the Modi government scared of a debate on an Opposition-sponsored non-confidence motion?

On the face of it, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre has nothing to worry about. It is comfortably placed in the Lok Sabha to survive a no-confidence motion. Moreover, an Opposition attack provides the ruling alliance with an opportunity to close ranks and emerge stronger by winning the trust vote.

Yet, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has not taken up the notices of no-confidence moved by Opposition parties over the past few days on the plea that the House is not in order, indicating that the Modi government does not want to get bogged down in a debate that a no-confidence motion entails.

No-confidence motion

In a replay of what has been witnessed in Parliament for the past fortnight, the Lok Sabha was again adjourned on Tuesday amid unruly scenes. In fact, no business has been transacted in the second half of the Budget Session, which started on March 5, as Opposition parties have been protesting, with many raising demands specific to their states.

A belligerent Congress had initially held up proceedings to press for a debate on the Nirav Modi-Punjab National Bank scam. However, this issue soon fell by the wayside as the Telugu Desam Party, which rules Andhra Pradesh, demanded special category status for the state, with its rival, the YSR Congress, joining the chorus.

It was initially believed that the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress were actually helping the Modi government by diverting attention from the Nirav Modi issue. However, the situation changed when the Telugu Desam Party walked out of the National Democratic Alliance on March 16 and followed it up by moving a no-confidence motion against the Modi government.

With the political scene heating up with a year to go before the next general election, other Opposition parties, including the Left parties and the Congress, also decided to move no-confidence motions.

The result is that the Modi government, which was trying to avoid a discussion on the Nirav Modi case, now faces the prospect of being taken to task for its various deficiencies. Unlike the discussion on the Nirav Modi case, which would have focused on the scam, a debate on a no-confidence motion is not confined to any one subject. It gives ample opportunity to the speakers to attack the government on a wide-range of issues.

Bad time for criticism

From all accounts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not keen on sitting through a debate where his government is likely to be hauled over the coals. While an attack by the Opposition parties will be on expected lines, the Bharatiya Janata Party has reasons to worry about its allies, who may not vote against the government, but are likely to seize this opportunity to air their grievances. That would prove embarrassing for Modi, who is used to being in control. With the general elections coming up, the BJP’s allies can be expected to strike a hard bargain for their support. A no-confidence motion also means a busy time for the government’s parliamentary managers, who have to placate and mollify the BJP’s allies and smaller parties to ensure that it registers a convincing victory.

The BJP has already lost an ally in the Telugu Desam Party. Its Maharashtra ally, the Shiv Sena, is constantly at war with it, and has even threatened to contest the next election on its own. The Shiromani Akali Dal has also been sulking. A delegation from the Punjab party recently met BJP president Amit Shah to draw attention to the agrarian crisis and press for the payment of the minimum support price to farmers for their crops as recommended by the Swaminathan Commission report. The Akali Dal is also upset that the Goods and Services Tax is being charged from the langar (community kitchen) that serves free meals at gurdwaras, a point that was also flagged at the meeting with Shah. “If the government does not give the farmers a fair MSP [Minimum Support Price], it will be very difficult for our party to justify its alliance with the BJP in the next election,” said a senior Akal Dal MP.

Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party is said to be upset following the Supreme Court’s recent order diluting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Not only did the party write to the prime minister asking the government to file a review petition against the order, it has gone ahead and filed such a petition without waiting for the Union government to make the first move in this direction. Since the Bihar-based party draws its support primarily from Dalits, it cannot afford to remain silent on this matter as it could have serious repercussions for it in the next elections.

The no-confidence motions have also come at a time when the Modi government appears to be vulnerable. The farmers’ stir is showing no signs of abating, the government’s handling of the economy has not inspired confidence and the employment scenario is dismal. The BJP’s defeat in the recent bye-polls in Gorakhpur and Pulphur have also put the saffron party on the defensive.

With Assembly elections in Karnataka coming up in May, the Modi government would not like to be perceived to be under siege at this critical juncture. The party, especially Modi, has to necessarily project an image of strength and confidence.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.