No-trust vote: Foregone conclusion, much rhetoric, and a big hug
New Delhi: With the conclusion foregone, since numbers were stacked heavily in favour of the ruling NDA, parliamentarians began to debate from 11 am on Friday the no-confidence motion that had been initiated by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) on the Centre’s reluctance to give Andhra Pradesh a ‘special status’.
NDA partners, however critical of top gun BJP like the Shiv Sena, decided to close ranks and vote against the no-confidence move. Several other fence-sitters – AIADMK, TRS and the BJD – were likely to abstain, tilting the scales further in BJP’s favour. The ruling disposition, which has hauled all heads to Parliamant today, is likely to get nearly 350 ‘ayes’ if the vote goes through in the evening at 6 pm. The Opposition has 154.
Opposition parties, which hope to ‘expose’ the ruling government, appear to have fallen into a political trap by moving this motion as defeat is certain. The debate preceding the vote has just given Prime Minister Narendra Modi the opportunity to kickstart the BJP’s 2019 election campaign.
A senior Congress leader indicated that if the motion ended up being “a battle of rhetoric between Modi and Rahul, then one knows who is the better orator”.
Live highlights from Lok Sabha:
* True to speculation, Odisha’s Biju Janata Dal MPs walked out as soon as the debate began. They later said this move should not be seen as an attempt to “help the BJP government”. The majority mark fell to 258.
* Shiv Sena also decided not to attend Parliament on Friday. “We are with the BJP today, can’t say about tomorrow,” the Sena said. Majority mark went down to 249.
* TDP’s Jayadev Galla initiated the debate. He said Andhra Pradesh was divided in 2014 in an undemocratic way, by bulldozing Parliament. “Andhra Pradesh was burdened by huge revenue deficit, a mammoth loan. AP has very few sources of revenue generation. Telangana was already a state. AP is a new state, but has got less funds. AP has been the loser in all aspects, it is languishing at all fronts despite talent,” Galla said. “You raised the expectations of the people of AP only to shatter them. The BJP will be decimated in Andhra like the Congress was. This is not a threat, but a shraap,” he added. He also criticised the BJP’s move to field corruption-accused candidates in the Karnataka elections, stating it blunted Modi’s ‘na khaaonga, na khaney dunga’ promise. Galla attacked the Congress too for going back on promises made to Andhra Pradesh.
* Next to speak was BJP’s Rakesh Singh. “Our enthusiasm to develop the country has not dimmed. It is on in full steam,” he said. Singh refuted the charges brought Jayadev Galla and said he was projecting the Congress’ failure on Andhra Pradesh on the BJP. “Gallaji said he was giving us a shraap. But he is shraapit today as he stands with the Congress. Congress partner H D Kumaraswamy cried in front of everybody the other day. He said he was drinking poison (by being a Congress ally in Karnataka),” Singh said. He attacked the Congress next: “Under Congress, gareebi nahin hati, gareeb ko hatna pada.” He then rattled off the NDA government’s achievements sine 2014.
* Congress president Rahul Gandhi took the stage next and tore into the government’s “lies and jumlas” on employment, demonetisation, the GST etc. “You are the victim of a 21st-century political weapon and you are not the only one. The political weapon is called ‘jumla strike’. Its victims are farmers, youth, Dalits, tribals and women,” he said. “This Prime Minister doesn’t talk to small shopkeepers but with the suited-booted few. The pain of the poor doesn’t reach him,” Rahul charged. He added: “The PM had said he was the chaukidaar of the country. But he doesn’t say a word when his friend’s son becomes rich quickly,” the Congress leader said.
* “The Defence Minister said there is a secrecy pact with France on Rafale deal. I personally met the Prime Minister of France and asked him if any such pact existed, he clearly said there was no pact,” Rahul Gandhi went on. “Everybody understands the Prime Minister is friendly with businessmen who sponsor him. One such gentleman benefited from the Rafale deal. The Prime Minister should explain why this contract was taken away from the youngsters of Karnataka and given to a businessman who has a debt of Rs 35,000 crore?” Rahul went on to taunt how Modi could not look him in the eye “because he is not truthful”. “He is not a chaukidaar but a bhagidaar,” Rahul mocked.
* Rahul next criticised Modi’s foreign policies, particularly on how he handled the skirmish in Doklam.
* Rahul spoke about the condition of women in the country. “India, in the first time in its history, is not being able to save its women. This is India’s reputation today — in the country and abroad,” Rahul said. “But the PM says nothing! Are these women not Indian? He is also lsilent on mob lynchings,” the Congress leader said.
* Rahul ended in an uncharacteristically belligerent note: “The Prime Minister and the BJP President are very different type of politicians. We can see ourselves in power and out of power. But the PM and the BJP President can’t simply afford to lose power. If they lose, other processes would start against them. So they are afraid to lose. This has given rise to their anger. It is this anger that India is feeling. I can tell you today that we shall defeat you in 2019.”
* “You Narendra Modi and the BJP have taught me what Congress is, what a Hindu is. Congress stands for all. You may hate me. But I don’t hate you. I shall take the hatred out of your heart and turn you all into Congress members!” “Aap logon ke andar mere liye nafrat hai, aap mujhe Pappu aur bohot gaaliyan dekar bula sakte hain, lekin mere andar aapke liye nafrat nahi hai,” Rahul Gandhi said.
After this impassioned speech, Rahul Gandhi crossed over to the Treasury Bench and gave PM Narendra Modi — first, a warm handshake and then a hug. Modi was surprised but soon gained composure to call back Rahul and give him another handshake.
* Trinamul Congress’ Sougata Roy said the Prime Minister has become a “travelling salesman”. He questioned why Modi had visited Bengal, not talked about the state’s achievements but spoke about the state’s syndicate. He then spoke about the Prime Minister’s travels abroad and how much it had cost the tax payer. “What have we achieved after the Prime Minister’s globetrotting?” Roy asked. “Our poor farmers are dying for the lack of money,” the Trinamul leader added.
* Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the NDA had never brought a no-confidence motion against the UPA because “the Opposition was respectful” of a government in majority. “How can one not trust a Prime Minister who has worked for the people?” Singh asked in his speech.
* “Mob lynching incidents are very unfortunate and I have asked state governments to make the strictest of laws to punish it. But I would like to tell people who are raising these issues today that the biggest case of mob lynching happened during the 1984 Sikh genocide,” Singh said. Singh also took a dig at Rahul Gandhi’s hug of Narendra Modi, stating Rahul has now started a ‘chipko andolan’ in the House and that he too would hug Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge after the debate.
* A little before 6 pm, BJP’s Prahlad Joshi moved a breach of privilege motion against Rahul Gandhi. The BJP leader said Rahul Gandhi made ‘unsubstantiated claims against BJP, particularly against the PM on Rafale deal’.* Congress’ leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge reminded the House of his party’ contribution to democracy in India. He said: “If we acted the way you are acting now — dividing people, encouraging inequality — democracy wouldn’t have survived in India,” he said.