M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan govt wins trust vote, N-deal can
move on
Anita Katyal and Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

They (Left parties) wanted me to behave as their bonded slave...They wanted a veto over every single step of negotiations, which is not done. — Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 22
After days of mudslinging, charges and counter-charges of corruption and bribery and claims and counter-claims, the Congress-led UPA government today cruised to a comfortable victory in the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha.

The Prime Minister's motion expressing confidence of the House in the Council of Ministers was carried with 275 votes in favour and 256 against while two abstained in a total vote of 487. In a House with an effective strength of 541 members, eight MPs did not turn up for the vote.

As soon as the results came in, tension and anxiety in the ruling benches gave way to instant relief and jubiliation. Having managed to fend off the biggest challenge to his government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today declared: “We have got a solid majority”, adding that it was indeed a convincing victory.

A visibly relieved external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee went a step further, declaring it to be a “Constitutional, moral and physical victory,” and pointed out that the UPA had got 275 votes which was more than half of the full strength of the House. He also slammed the opposition for not having the courtsey to hear the PM out.

It was a particularly satisfying day for the Prime Minister personally as today’s vote has put a formal stamp of approval on the controversial Indo-US nuclear agreement and will allow the government to push ahead with the nuke deal, which had been blocked by the Left parties. More importantly, the Prime Minister has emerged as a politican in his own right after this vote. As AICC leader Digivijay Singh said, “We now have a more confident PM.”

The opposition was predictably shell-shocked as its ranks had been successfully breached, giving the impression that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is in a disarray.

Although a clear picture will emerge in a day or two, earlier claims by Congress leaders that the vote would throw up many surprises turned out to be correct. As many as five BJP MPs, including Somabhai Patel, Manjunath, Brijbhushan Sharan, Chandrabhan Singh and T. Sanglia defied their party whip and voted for the government.

The other abseentees were not present. JD (S) member Shivanna switched sides and voted with the ruling coalition although his leader Deve Gowda had publicly delcared that he would not support the motion.

However, the real surprise was the desertion by two senior TDP members, M. Jagannath and D.K.Audikesavula, who voted in favour of the motion. The TDP MPs were so rattled by this turn of events that they even accosted Audikesavula and led him out of the House after he had cast his vote while agitated Congress members Madhu Yakshi Gowd and Renuka Chaudhary went after them.

In addition, at least three BJP members did not come for the vote. A Shiv Sena and an Akali Dal MP were among the other absentees.

The vote on the confidence motion came at the end of a day which was marred by unseemly scenes of allegations of bribery and intimidation by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The House had to be adjourned repeatedly as slogan-shouting opposition members stormed into the well of the House to demand Prime Minister’s resignation.

As the protest continued unabated and nothing could be heard in the din, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unable to reply to the debate which was laid on the table of the House.

The drama and the tension continued even after the motion was put to vote. It took nearly an hour to announce the results because the initial figures registered by the electronic voting machine had to be corrected as several votes, including that of Lok Sabha leader Pranab Mukherjee , were not recorded.

These results had shown 253 in favour of the motion and 232 against. There was a buzz of excitement as opposition members could be heard accusing the treasury benches of luring away their MPs.

Even before the final result was announced, ruling alliance members went up to the Prime Minister and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to greet them on the victory. Four BJP members, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, were permitted to vote from the inner lobby of the House through slips on account of their ill-health.


Lalu at his best

It was railway minister Lalu Prasad at his wittiest best as he attacked the Left and the BJP with his rustic humour during the debate on the trust vote in the Lok Sabha. “Char saal pehele, tum ko mujse pyaar tha, aaj bhi hai, aur kal bhi rahega,” he said, referring to the withdrawal of support by the Left to the UPA Government that led to the trust vote. “Kisi ke pande, rang birange jhande,” he said, criticising the coming together of the BJP, the BSP and the Left to defeat the Confidence Motion. During his speech, some BSP members walked out in protest. Lalu also termed the allegation of offering crores of rupees to three BJP MPs as a “drama” staged by the saffron party when they were about to be “exposed for offering money” to RJD’s Pappu Yadav. “It is drama,” Lalu told reporters soon after three BJP MPs alleged that they were offered Rs 3 crore each for abstaining from voting during the confidence motion. Lalu alleged that a senior BJP leader met Yadav in Tihar jail and offered him Rs 7 crore for voting against the government.

Rahul’s praise for Atal

Amid the political acrimony during the trust vote debate, Rahul Gandhi disarmed the BJP when he heaped praise on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for working to ease energy shortage.Flagging the point that energy security was vital to reduce poverty and to maintain growth while batting for the Indo-US nuclear deal, the scion of the Gandhi family made a mention of Vajpayee’s role. Apparently finding no response to his charitable remark about the leader of a rival party, Gandhi pointedly looked towards the BJP benches and quipped: “Ispe taali mariye, ispe to taali mariye (at least, clap for this).”

Chatterjee chides Left MPs

Somnath Chatterjee expressed his strong displeasure when the Left members, especially those from the CPM, repeatedly interrupted finance minister P. Chidambaram during his speech on the trust motion. At one point, he pointed to the main opposition, BJP, and told the Left members that they should take lessons from them as “they are not disturbing”. “Please do not think that I am allowing all this.... You will face the consequences,” he remarked. At another point, he chided CPM member N.N. Krishnadas that he should not think that he was glorifying himself or his party by “this indiscipline”.

Voting from the lobby

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today allowed four BJP members, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to vote from the lobby of the House in view of their indisposition. Besides, Vajpayee, others given the permission are Mahesh Kanoria, Harishchandra Chavan and cinestar-turned-politician Dharmendra.— Agencies



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