Wednesday, August 20, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

No-trust motion defeated
Oppn has violated principle of consensus, says Vajpayee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
The four-year-old Vajpayee government emerged unscathed at the end of the two-day no-confidence motion late tonight which was defeated by 312 to 186, a margin of 126 votes. Nobody was surprised by the outcome of the motion as it was a foregone conclusion.

The motion was defeated after a 22-hour-long debate as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made light of the nine-point Congress charge sheet against his government, saying that the Opposition had violated the long accepted principle of consensus on foreign policy issues.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Ms Sonia Gandhi, who had yesterday moved the motion, tonight said the government had no explanation for its failure on all fronts.

“Even after over 20 hours of debate, the government has failed to properly answer the charges .... they can try to hide their acts of omission and commission, but they have to reply to the people,” she said.

A confident-looking Ms Gandhi said in her speech in Hindi that while all members in the House had taken an oath in accordance with the Constitution, the ruling NDA coalition was attacking all constitutional institutions “which is dangerous for democracy and the country”.

The Prime Minister said he had been in Parliament since 1957, but had never seen such a no-confidence motion. He pointed out that a no-trust motion was usually brought when a government was on the verge of collapse or to keep it on its toes. “But I wonder why such a motion has been moved now when there is no question of our government breaking nor do you intend to break it.”

He said Ms Sonia Gandhi’s charge that the government had endangered internal security or jeopardised national defence was not acceptable. He objected to the allegation that the government had “mortgaged” its foreign policy and rhetorically asked: “Do you think India is so cheap that anyone can mortgage it?”

Earlier, noisy interruptions took place repeatedly in the Lok Sabha over attempts by members seeking to table documents to embarrass Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi, but Speaker Manohar Joshi staved off trouble by his rulings.

A great deal of time was lost because of endless points of order and heated exchanges towards the fag-end of the two-day debate on the no-confidence motion as members from both sides argued as per their party affiliations.

Mr Prabhunath Singh (Samata Party) raked up the issue of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Italian origin and claimed to have in possession some documents and levelled allegations over which he had given advance notice to the Speaker.

Anticipating his move, Congress member Avatar Singh Bhadana had also given some documents purportedly against the Samata Party member.

Former Speaker and Congress Deputy leader Shivraj Patil quoted from rules to say whether Mr Prabhunath Singh’s charges were really germane to the debate under discussion and whether they should be allowed.

He said Mr Prabhnunath Singh was in the habit of making wild allegations against Ms Gandhi and that the Speaker should once and for all decide to put an end to the member’s attempts to “malign and bring down dignity of the members and the House.”

Law Minister Arun Jaitley rose in support of Mr Prabhunath Singh and said the member had given adequate notice about the charge he was going to make against Ms Gandhi. He said Ms Gandhi in her speech yesterday had made “unsubstantiated” remarks against those in the government and that it was only in order that Mr Prabhunath Singh should have his say.

Mr Joshi in his ruling said he had gone through the notices given by Mr Prabhunath Singh and against him by Mr Bhadana and felt both were not “imperatively necessary” for the subject under discussion and he was disallowing them.

While this brought temporary order in the House, Mr Prabhunath Singh again sought to raise the issue of Ms Gandhi acquiring Indian citizenship and made some allegations against her family member which were expunged from the records.

Fresh trouble erupted when subsequent speaker RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh sought to table a letter purportedly written by Mr Vajpayee and the late RSS chief Balasaheb Deoras during the Emergency.

Meanwhile, Janata Dal(S) leader and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda challenged the Vajpayee government to make public the CVC report on defence deals and the steps against the plight of farmers in the country.

Mr Deve Gowda, speaking at the second day’s debate on the Congress-sponsored no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha, also dared Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Defence Minister George Fernandes to reveal if any malpractices had taken place in the purchase of defence equipment.

Mr Gowda’s speech was interrupted by noisy exchanges between the Treasury and Opposition Benches. He wanted to know whether the purchase of Russian-made T-90 tanks, self-propelled guns and South African multi-barrel rockets were made through a single vendor system or global tender.

He said he would welcome a probe to bring into light whether dubious deals were struck during his 10 months of Prime Ministership as well and who were the responsible persons.

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