Lifeline: Mamata decides to abstain. Ditto 10 others from NDA?
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 21
Unfazed by the united Opposition challenge to unseat him, a combative Manmohan Singh and his external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee came out strongly in defence of the nuclear deal, while Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani argued that the pact with Washington would make India subservient to the US.
After days of speculation over the fate of his government, the Prime Minister introduced a one-line motion in the Lok Sabha seeking the confidence of the House in his council of ministers. The trust vote was fully avoidable as he had promised to return to Parliament before operationalising the contentious deal, Manmohan Singh said as the treasury benches, led by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, thumped the desks as soon as he got up to move the motion.
The crisis managers of the ruling coalition appeared relaxed, in an apparent expression of confidence that they could manage the numbers tomorrow to ensure their victory when the trust motion is put to vote.
But the quality of the debate on the trust vote, marked by sharp exchanges between UPA members and those ranged against them in the Opposition never rose to the expected level of intellect, both in quality and content. It was Speaker Somnath Chatteerjee, who occasionally provided some relief to the yawning members, by making witty remarks.
While BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Advani sought to pick holes in the government’s arguments in favour of the deal, the Left parties charged the Prime Minister with betraying them by not adhering to the “coalition dharma” and unilaterally deciding to enter into a pact with Washington that would compromise with the country’s sovereignty.
The Prime Minister reiterated that he and his government had taken all the decisions in the best interests of the Indian people. “I assure the House and the country that every single decision, every policy decision was taken in the fullest confidence that it was in the best interest of the people of the country.”
Manmohan Singh reminded the House that unlike his predecessors it was for the first time his government, which had completed four years and two months in office, was facing a trust vote.
And only to draw a distinction between the current leaders of the CPM and the past leadership of the party, the Prime Minister praised the “sagacity, wisdom and visionary leadership” of veterans Jyoti Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, describing them as the architects of the coalition government.
Opposition the trust motion, Advani observed that the government had been paralysed for over a year now. It was only talking about the nuclear deal while ignoring all other issues, including the runaway inflation and terrorism.
He wondered why the government did not incorporate the nuclear deal in the common minimum programme (CMP) it had chalked out with the Left parties for forming the government.
The Leader of the Opposition said if the NDA came to power at the Centre, it would not scrap the deal but would renegotiate it so that there were no restrictions on the country’s strategic autonomy.
Advani and the Prime Minister were also briefly engaged in a verbal duel when the BJP leader said Manmohan Singh, when he was the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had opposed the Pokhran nuclear tests in 1998 on the floor of the upper House. Rebutting the charge, the Prime Minister said remarks on the tests and the criticisms were made in the context of sanctions imposed on India after the tests and also in the light of India’s stand on non-proliferation.