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March 27, 1998

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Aggressive debate marks trust vote

Discussion on the vote of confidence in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee showed that members of the twelfth Lok Sabha are acutely conscious of the uncertain future of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition in view of its razor-thin majority.

The first day of the discussion on the motion which went late into the night witnessed some of the senior-most parliamentarians expressing their apprehensions or confidence in Vajpayee and his ability to lead the government, with many recalling the fate of the 13-day BJP government in 1996.

While moving his motion, Vajpayee promised a government that would reverse the political uncertainties of the last 18 months. Vajpayee and several members from the BJP and its allies made a call for building a new India with the support of the strong Opposition. But the Opposition said the government was bound to collapse soon because of inner contradictions among the allies and their attempts to remain in power in violation of all principles.

Apart from the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sharad Pawar who spoke immediately after the prime minister, other MPs who spoke today included Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Somnath Chatterjee, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Congress's Ajit Jogi and Rajesh Pilot, the Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati and Tamil Maanila Congress leader P Chidambaram against the motion and Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj and BJP MP Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Union Defence Minister George Fernandes, Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Surjeet Singh Barnala and Trinamul Congress Mamata Banerjee in support of it.

Voting on the motion is expected to take place on Saturday afternoon, in keeping with the directive by President K R Narayanan that the Vajpayee government should seek the confidence of the House by March 29.

While the day saw lively speeches, many speakers were constantly interrupted making it difficult to make out what they were saying. At one stage, the House was adjourned an hour ahead of the lunch recess when All India Anna Dravida Munnetram Kazagham members trooped into the well of the House protesting Somnath Chatterjee's remarks about the reported meeting between the BJP's Jaswant Singh and AIADMK leader J Jayalalitha.

In his speech, Vajpayee, asserted that the people had given his government the mandate to rule, and he was committed to providing a stable and clean government. He also said he would consult all parties on vital issues and govern through a policy of consensus.

Participating in the debate on the motion, seeking confidence of the House, the Opposition said the saffron brigade was not sincere about the major issues -- corruption, secularism and Ayodhya. They must remove the apprehensions in the minds of the people before claiming a mandate to rule at the Centre.

Pawar said the BJP and its allies should clarify their stand as divergent views were given in their election manifestoes and the national agenda. The allies and the BJP had differences on several issues including foreign investment, industrial and economic policies, he said.

Denying that the BJP and its allies had taken contradictory stand on vital national issues, Fernandes said they were committed to preserve and promote secularism and national security.

Somnath Chatterjee said the BJP was not sincere about secularism. It had plunged the nation in communal turmoil after demolishing the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, he said.

Barnala said Punjab had suffered immensely because of the policies followed by the government at the Centre. People had been longing for a stable government and not elections. To ensure stability at the Centre, the Constitution should be amended so that the Lok Sabha could complete its five-year term, he said.

He lashed out at the Left parties for attempting to form a government at the Centre with Congress help. The Communists, he said, had been fighting the Congress for decades. The Left parties were prepared to come to power at all costs and were not bothered about principles and ideologies, he added.

The Bahujan Samaj Party's Mayawati alleged that, after she had rejected allurements offered by the BJP to support its government at the Centre, the government had instructed the Central Bureau of Investigation to implicate her in false cases.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazagham leader V Gopalaswamy -- Vaiko as he now prefers to be known -- said that BJP president Lal Kishinchand Advani had asserted his commitment to secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. But the Congress and the UF constituents were worried about the national agenda adopted by the BJP and its allies.

Appealing to the Opposition to join hands with the BJP to build a new India, Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj said the new government had drawn up a comprehensive programme for the nation.

Referring to Chatterjee and Pawar's assertion that the BJP has failed to secure the people's mandate, she said even the Congress had failed in securing the people's mandate for 40 out of the 45 years it had ruled the country. It had always secured only one-third of the total votes polled, she said.

She said though Chatterjee has cited the Supreme Court judgment on secularism, he had failed to cite the 1995 apex court order on Hindutva. It clearly said that Hindutva is not a religion.


Elections '98

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