August 19, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Oppn charges govt with all-round failure
New Delhi, August 18
Ms Gandhi’s hour-long speech, punctuated by the Opposition’s sarcastic and noisy remarks, sounded like an elaborate chargesheet against the government which she described as ‘incompetent, insensitive, irresponsible and brazenly corrupt’.
She thundered that the Vajpayee government’s days were ‘numbered’.
Ms Gandhi, who was often ridiculed by the Treasury Benches members for reading out a prepared speech in English contrary to the traditions and conventions of no-confidence motion debates, identified nine specific areas where she accused the government of failing miserably.
These included jeopardising the country’s defence, weakening the national security, subverting the secular credence of the nation and inconsistency in foreign policy, ‘monumental corruption’ on the Taj Corridor project and even on the purchase of coffins for the Kargil martyrs.
On the defence deals, she said almost Rs 24,000 crore allocated for defence modernisation had remained unspent. This constituted about 30 per cent of the budgeted amount. She said not a single rupee of Rs 4253 crore the government had raised last year from Kargil tax was spent. Besides, she listed a number of corruption cases, including the stock market scam, land allotment to RSS and VHP institutions in the capital at one tenth of the market value.
She said the country would never forget the ‘shameful spectacle’ of the then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh escorting three hardcore terrorists to Kandhar by a special flight. The terrorists were then taken to Pakistan from where they again crossed over to India and killed innocent people.
She said it was astonishing to read the Subrahmanyam Committee report on Kargil which said the Pakistani intrusion had come as a ‘complete and total surprise’ to the Indian government, the Army and intelligence agencies as well as the government of Jammu and Kashmir.
On the government’s refusal to give the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) access to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report on defence deals, she asked the Prime Minister, ‘‘Why is the government impeding the functioning of the PAC which is the arbiter of transparency in government dealings?’’
She spoke of ‘‘blatant politicisation’’ of the CBI on the Babri Masjid demolition case and said it was a ‘matter of shame’ because the conspiracy charges against the prime accused, which included two senior ministers of the government, were dropped.
On the foreign front, Ms Gandhi said the NDA government had strayed from the path of a distinguished national policy and charged it with lacking clarity and continuity. In the same breath, she also remarked: ‘‘The Prime Minister went to Lahore. His hosts were preparing for Kargil while he wasthere. Did we know this? He went to Beijing. While he was there, there was an intrusion of Chinese troops into India territory in Arunachal Pradesh.’’
She accused Prime Minister Vajpayee of ‘double-speak’. On social harmony, she said the Prime Minister was indulging in double-speak, whether it was Ayodhya or Gujarat. ‘‘In fact, the only thing that emerges from his pronouncements is that he is a master of double-speak. It is not at all clear whether what he says is a true reflection of his views or a calculated ruse to camouflage the destructive agenda of his brotherhood.’’
In this context, she mentioned the Best Bakery case in Gujarat which, according to her, was a prime example of how even the canons of law were being twisted to promote communal politics.
On women’s reservation in Parliament, she said the government wilfully destroyed the national consensus. The government had no intention of getting the Bill passed. If it had it could have done so with the support of the Congress party.
On the economic front, Ms Gandhi said the economic growth came down to just 4.3 per cent from the average 6.7 per cent during the previous Congress regime.
She asked the Prime Minister why his Government was ‘‘impeding’’ the functioning of the PAC by refusing to give it access to the CVC report ‘‘which has examined some transactions relating to Operation Vijay.’’
Recalling the government’s claim of a ‘paradigm shift’ in bilateral ties with the USA, she said if indeed there had been such a shift then no benefits seemed to have accrued to India.
She asked the Prime Minister to spell out India’s stand on the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan saying it was an unprecedented development.
Ms Gandhi moved the first no-confidence motion against the 46-month old Vajpayee government in the Lok Sabha as soon as the legislative business got over at noon.
Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani as the first speaker from the government’s side contended that the image of India abroad had gone up dramatically in the past five years. He castigated the Opposition for being a divided house that had failed to name its leader who could replace Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister. He regretted that India did not have a Germany-type provision where it was mandatory that when a party brought a no-confidence motion against the government it must also bring a confidence motion in favour of a leader specifically identified.
Mr Advani said had such provision been there in India, the Opposition would not have been able to bring about this no-confidence motion as well the historic no-confidence motion in 1999 wherein the 13-month-old Vajpayee government was defeated by one vote.
He criticised Ms Gandhi for her aggressive language while moving the motion and said he could not use such a language as he was not used to it. He accused the Congress for throwing democracy to the winds in 1975 by imposing the Emergency.
At this Ms Gandhi got up and said that those languishing in jails during the Emergency had written to the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi pleading for their release.
This led to a furore in the House and former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar angrily told Ms Gandhi that instead of making such a sweeping remark, she should make public such letters. Mr Advani supported Mr Chandra Shekhar on this. Mr Shekhar also refused to support the motion
Mr Advani described the 1998 Pokharan nuclear tests as ‘a turning point’ in enhancing India’s prestige internationally. However, he said the NDA Government was not taking all the credit for it, but it was Mr Vajpayee who finally decided to go for the tests.
On the women’s reservation Bill in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies, Mr Advani said government was ready to accept any of the three alternatives — the proposal of the Election Commission, dual membership seats and the Bill in its original form — provided there was a consensus among political parties.
Mr Advani urged Ms Gandhi not to direct her Chief Ministers against implementing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) as there was no other law to combat terrorism and the funding of terrorists.
On the internal security front, Mr Advani said the busting of 187 ISI modules in the country was a major task of the government which took on Pakistan-backed proxy war like no one in the past. Besides, since December 2001, the government agencies had succeeded in seizing Rs.4.5 crore which was meant to fund terrorists.
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