Thursday, May 2, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Censure move defeated in LS
TDP members walk out; NC, AIADMK abstain from voting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 1
After a record 16-hour-long highly volatile and acrimonious debate spilling over to the wee hours today, the Opposition motion to censure the Vajpayee government on the Gujarat issue was defeated by 94 votes in the Lok Sabha.

There were 276 votes against the motion, 182 in favour and eight abstentions. The 94-vote margin was so unexpectedly wide that the Opposition did not press for manual counting through slips that usually follows the verdict of the electronic voting machines.

Just before the motion was put to vote on the Opposition’s insistence, the 28-member Telugu Desam Party (TDP) walked out. TDP leader K. Yerran Naidu was up on his feet immediately after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee concluded his intervention and sought the chair’s permission to speak. After getting the permission, Mr Naidu said his party was not satisfied with Mr Vajpayee’s intervention as it did not cover any of the TDP’s demands and, therefore, the TDP members were walking out in protest.

Significantly, the five-member National Conference, a constituent of the ruling NDA, and the 11-member AIADMK abstained from voting. NDA’s new ally 12-member BSP voted against the motion.

The House also rejected by voice vote the amendments to the motion moved by Mr G.M. Banatwala (IUML), Mr Rupchand Pal (CPM) and P.R. Dasmunshi (Cong) aimed at sharpening the language to put the onus on the Centre and Gujarat Government.

The debate at times became cantankerous, triggering off disruption of the proceedings on several occasions. Allegation of corruption against the Leader of the Opposition, Ms Sonia Gandhi, by a Samata Party member and the demand for her arrest sparked off verbal duels. When the situation was threatening to get out of control Deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed acted swiftly and called for a meeting of the floor leaders in his chamber. After the meeting, Mr Sayeed directed the expunction of all remarks unconnected with the subject of discussion in the House.

The House witnessed another round of uproar when Union Ministers George Fernandes, Yashwant Sinha and Pramod Mahajan joined the fray in demanding an apology from Congress member Mani Shankar Aiyer for his remarks against the armed forces. The entire treasury benches moved into the aisle of the House, raising slogans against Mr Aiyer and the Congress member had to eventually give in.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, in his intervention, reiterated that the Godhra train killings could not justify the violence in Gujarat. He called upon the Opposition parties to rise above partisan politics to help the government restore communal harmony in the state.

Refuting charges that he had changed his statements during his visit to Gujarat and later at Goa BJP national executive meeting, Mr Vajpayee said he had never discriminated on the basis of religion, birth or caste.

Mr Vajpayee said he had said in his earlier speeches that Islam had two forms — one which tolerates and leads to the path of truth and teaches benevolence and the other which has no tolerance and only militancy.

Another criticism against him, the Prime Minister said, was that he only condemned Muslim fundamentalism and not Hindu fundamentalism. He recalled that he had criticised BJP leader K.R. Malkani’s book on Hindutva.

Maintaining that his statements on Islam and Muslims were the same in Gujarat as well as in Goa, Mr Vajpayee said these were recorded and published and there was no scope for any change. Mr Vajpayee said such baseless charges were meant to ruin the image that he had built up in his long transparent public life.

Referring to Ms Sonia Gandhi’s statement that he should rise above party politics, Mr Vajpayee said: “Yes, I want to rise above party politics but I cannot do it alone. Soniaji will also have to rise along with me. Everybody will have to do it.’’

The Prime Minister said he might have been wrong in not agreeing to the censure motion which he felt divided the ruling and Opposition parties. “You did not allow the House to function. Now what has happened has happened. Let us look to the future. If you think I was wrong, I accept my mistake.”

Mr Vajpayee said Hindutva should be liberal and not narrow, He averred that what he saw in Gujarat during his visit was shocking and described it as “madness”.

Deprecating the way the modesty of women was outraged, he wondered how the society had sunk to such depths. “Rapists do not feel ashamed and the society does not condemn it. If this disease is not checked, it will affect our society and culture. This is a new crisis.”

Mr Vajpayee also said the role of the media in Gujarat during the communal violence needed to be seriously thought about. The government did not want to control the media but a code of conduct should be there for the media so that tensions do not increase because of continued picturisation of gory happenings and identification of victims. In this context, he said showing pictures of burnt human bodies once could be news but showing them repeatedly could not be just news.

He pointed out that after the budget was announced, former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar wanted all to condemn the Godhra incident but a united voice did not go from the House.

Union Home Minister L.K. Advani asserted that the removal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi would not resolve the Gujarat issue. He, however, sought to distance himself from certain remarks of Defence Minister George Fernandes that what had happened in Gujarat was not something new.

Intervening in the debate, Mr Advani rejected the Opposition charge that the violence and mayhem in Gujarat was state-engineered and stated “Resignation of Modi will offer no solution.”

On the Defence Minister’s remarks, Mr Advani said Mr Fernandes may have made the comment in a larger perspective when he stated that what took place in Gujarat was something that has been going on for the last 55 years.

Mr Advani dismissed the impression created in the minds of the people that Mr Modi had not acted knowingly and said it was possible that there were shortcomings while dealing with the situation on part of the administration and the police. “There is no place for revenge in a civilised society,” he said.

Mr Advani said the government’s sustained efforts against the continued Pakistan-backed cross-border terrorism had exposed Islamabad before the international community. He stated that the Gujarat violence had tarnished the country’s image and reminded the Opposition that Pakistan was taking advantage of the situation in its anti-India rhetoric.

Replying to the marathon debate, Samajwadi Party Leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, the mover of the motion, reiterated the demand for Mr Modi’s ouster and imposition of President’s rule in the state, saying that the violence in Gujarat had put the entire country to shame.

In a dig on Defence Minister George Fernandes, Mr Yadav said being part of the socialist movement in the past, he (Mr Fernandes) should have been the one to demand Mr Modi’s resignation. He also hit out at the RSS chief for his reported remarks that the minority community was at the mercy of the majority community.Back


Last-minute bid to stave off voting fails
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 1
A last-minute attempt was made, apparently spontaneously, in the Lok Sabha in the wee hours today to stave off voting on the Opposition-sponsored censure motion on Gujarat but the move failed.

Hope flickered for some time for an amicable resolution of the issue as Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee apparently struck an emotional chord when he said on an issue like Gujarat he did not want a divided House.

During his intervention in the debate, Mr Vajpayee said the members could discuss how to go about the issue. While saying this he did not forget to remind the Opposition that he was making the proposal even though his government was in a majority.

"It is not a question of majority and minority. The country’s existence and honour are at stake," Mr Vajpayee argued.

CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee and Congress member Priyaranjan Dasmunshi were quick on their feet and told the Prime Minister that he could move such a motion even now.

Congress President and Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi said "Let us have it now." But she wanted drafting of a fresh resolution.

Deputy Leader of the Congress Shivraj Patil quickly drafted a resolution and showed it to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan. They confabulated for some time over the purported draft resolution after which he showed it to Union Home Minister L.K. Advani.

Mr Advani gave a wry smile as he read the draft resolution, obviously in disagreement with its language. The move thus died as spontaneously as it was born.Back

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