Friday, December 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cong censure motion defeated
*NDA rallies behind PM
*No question of dropping ministers: Vajpayee

Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 14 — The Opposition motion seeking the removal of three Cabinet Ministers — Mr L.K. Advani, Mr Murli Manohar Joshi and Ms Uma Bharti — and disapproving the stand taken by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, on the Ayodhya issue was today rejected by 291 votes to 179 in the Lok Sabha. There were 14 abstentions.

The division, which took place after a 15-hour debate spread over two days, was on predictable lines with the entire National Democratic Alliance rallying behind the Prime Minister, in defeating the motion.

Members of the Bahujan Samaj Party, a former Prime Minister, Mr Chandra Shekhar, and some others abstained from voting.

The division followed a detailed reply by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee to the various charges levelled by Opposition members and apprehensions expressed by members of the NDA. Mr S. Jaipal Reddy, who as the mover of the motion, had the last word in the debate, countered Mr Vajpayee’s assertion.

Unfazed by the Opposition onslaught, which lasted for most of the 15-hour debate on the issue under Rule 184 of the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha that entails voting, a determined Mr Vajpayee said there was no question of his dropping the three ministers and added that he would reject the resignations even if they were submitted to him.

He, however, reaffirmed his commitment to the national agenda for governance of the NDA.

He stuck to his earlier stand that there were only two ways of resolving the temple-mosque dispute. Either the judiciary decides to hand over the land for temple construction or Hindus and Muslims sit together and resolve the dispute.

“There is no third way. This is not a question on which there should be rivalry among political parties”, he said.

He ridiculed the Opposition for raking up what he called an illogical demand and said their intention to effect a split in the NDA on the controversial issue would not succeed as the coalition was a unified structure.

“Our allies are with us. We, too, are tied to the national agenda (of the NDA)” Mr Vajpayee said, adding that the contentious issues had been dropped.

“Our government is doing well and the allies are with us despite differences of opinion, which is a good sign for democracy. The NDA stands united”, he said.

Speaking with confidence, especially after the allies, particularly the Telugu Desam Party stated in unequivocal terms that they would support the Government during the voting, Mr Vajpayee defended the three ministers and called for building a consensus on the sensitive Ayodhya issue.

In an apparent reference to the statement of Mr Reddy that the Prime Minister had been unmasked after his controversial statement on Ayodhya, Mr Vajpayee said “I have been in this House for the past 40 years but never changed my party”. It was a direct dig at Mr Reddy, who was formerly the spokesman for the United Front.

Refuting allegations that he had raked up the Ayodhya issue for political advantage, Mr Vajpayee explained that “the media surrounded me after a function and if at all there was any pressure, it was from the media”.

He said he wanted to convey that the demand for resignation was not justified and thereafter there were questions and counter-questions.

The Prime Minister said he had never spoken on the Ayodhya issue in the past years but was forced because of repeated disruption of proceedings in Parliament.

Mr Vajpayee said he was unhappy over the House proceedings being disrupted for over a week and pointed out that question hour was sacrosanct. “Whatever you have to say can be said after question hour. But even before the Speaker takes his chair you are up”, he added.

Mr Vajpayee recalled the reconstruction of the Somnath temple in Gujarat soon after independence. He asked whether the views taken at that time was not applicable for the Ram Temple.

The CPM leader, Mr Somnath Chatterjee, reacted to this by saying that “no one said there should be no temple, but the question is at what spot”.

Responding to it, Mr Vajpayee asked that did “national feeling” not mean construction of an “ancient and pure” temple on the basis of consensus.

He categorically stated that the resignation of Mr Harin Pathak could not be equated with that of the ministers chargesheeted in the Babri mosque demolition in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992.

“Neither the Constitution nor law disqualifies a minister from holding office because of charges filed by the police or because of charges framed by a court”, he said.

“His (Mr Pathak’s) resignation was under different circumstances and on his own wish. He was asked not to proceed with the resignation and allow the court to decide on the matter. But he was firm on his decision to quit”, he said.

“Their’s is not an ordinary crime. I know my colleagues very well. They have been given (ministerial) responsibilities in accordance with their capabilities. The case is in the court and awaiting disposal”, the Prime Minister said.

“I am sorry that I cannot accept the motion to drop some of my colleagues. I, too, have been blamed for protecting them”, Mr Vajpayee said.

At one stage, Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyer staged a walkout when the Prime Minister referred to the shilanyas at the disputed site in 1989.

On the shilanyas issue, the Congress leader, Mr N.D. Tiwari, maintained that it was not performed within the precincts of the disputed site and the decision had been taken by the then Congress government not to allow construction work any further.

Mr Jaipal Reddy cautioned the coalition partners that the Sangh Parivar was using the NDA as a ladder to implement its “fundamentalist” agenda. He said the wedlock between the BJP and the NDA allies was genetically defected.

He described the Sangh Parivar as an octopus adding that the BJP was only one of the tentacles of this creature. He disputed the comparison of the Somnath Temple with that of the Ram Temple saying there was no controversy on the ownership of the Somnath Temple.

The proceedings were quite smooth except for a tiff between DMK and AIADMK members. The two sides, which clashed over certain remarks of an AIADMK member during zero hour, were at each other’s throat once again when Mr Palanimanickam of the DMK suggested that AIADMK members had sent karsevaks to Ayodhya.

Mrs Margaret Alva, who was in the chair after failing to restore order, adjourned the House for 15 minutes from 3.45 p.m.

A noted film actor and Samajwadi Party member, Mr Raj Babbar, also created a flutter when he accused the Minister of State for Human Resource Development, Mr Shahnawaz Hussian, of lying.

BJP members admonished him by saying it was not a filmworld or a mock fight and added that he could not play a hero here. Mr Babbar was seen moving towards the well of the House but his party leader, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, signalled him to take his seat.

The Prime Minister had little worries when he entered the House today as early in the morning, the TDP, which had adopted a wait-and-watch attitude over the entire episode, conveyed its decision to support the NDA government during the voting.

The TDP Parliamentary Party spokesman, Mr C. Ramachandriah, said the decision to vote in favour of the government was taken this morning at a meeting attended among others by Mr K. Yerran Naidu.

Earlier, resuming the debate on the motion initiated by Mr Reddy, the Trinamool Congress, an ally of the NDA, opposed the motion but said the Prime Minister’s statement on the Ram Temple had created confusion and wanted him to clear the air.

“There should be no hidden agenda”, the party leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, said, adding that the Trinamool Congress would not allow the government to compromise with secular principles or deviate from the national agenda for governance, which excluded contentious issues like Ayodhya.

Describing the demolition of the Babri mosque as a “barbaric and heinous” crime, Ms Banerjee said the Supreme Court’s observations that status quo should be maintained at Ayodhya should be followed in letter and spirit.

The Railway Minister suggested that the Election Commission should be empowered to ban a political party which uses the religion card to garner votes during elections.

On the demand for the resignation of the three Cabinet Ministers, she said the Law Minister, Mr Arun Jaitley, had already explained why the demand of the Opposition could not be accepted on legal and technical grounds. Moreover, the issue lay within the prerogative of the Prime Minister, she added.

Referring to the controversy over Ayodhya, she said nobody wanted to topple the government or embarrass anyone. “But at the same time, we do not want to be embarrassed either”, she added.

Mr Chandra Shekhar said the BJP was following double standards and cited the example of Mr Harin Pathak, who had been asked to step down as Minister of State for Defence after charges were framed against him in an Ahmedabad court in a murder case.

Observing that a wrong message had gone across the country after Mr Vajpayee’s remarks, Mr Chandra Shekhar said the statements had created communal tension and even led to clashes between communities in Uttar Pradesh.Back


Deadlock in Rajya Sabha continues
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Dec 14 — Deadlock continued in the Rajya Sabha for the ninth day today over the Ayodhya issue with a strident Opposition protesting against the government for not agreeing to the demand for a censure motion on it.

The Opposition continued to press for a discussion under Rule 168 which entails voting under Rule 170 and vociferously demanded that the government should agree to it and not treat the upper house in a stepmotherly fashion.

The Opposition was on its feet even before the proceedings of the House got underway for the day. As the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, entered the House, the Opposition started demanding discussion on the Babri Masjid demolition issue and the observations made by Mr Vajpayee on it thereafter.

“There is a step-motherly treatment for the Rajya Sabha by not allowing discussion on the Ayodhya issue under a motion which entails voting as the same is being done in the Lok Sabha “, Congress member Suresh Pachauri said.

Chairman Krishan Kant barely waited for a minute after the House met before adjourning it for the day.

While the Opposition has been insisting on admissibility of a motion under Rule 168 which culminates in a discussion and voting under Rule 170, the government favours a debate without voting.

The Opposition members came down heavily on the government for showing “discrimination” by agreeing to discussion on the censure motion in the Lok Sabha but not doing so in Rajya Sabha.

Visibly concerned over the non-functioning of the House for the past nine days, Mr Vajpayee was seen confabulating with Leader of the House Jaswant Singh, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan and other senior members even after the House was adjourned.Back

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