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Exclusives - 02 August, 2018

Modi’s confidence fails nation

Amid ranting and raving Opposition members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in winning back the trust of his party members, and of course, of some of his allies...

By Samuel Mathai

Amid ranting and raving Opposition members, Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded in winning back the trust of his party members, and of course, of some of his allies during the discussion on the no-trust motion in Parliament. Though he could shut the mouth of his opponents with his two-hour usual sarcastic rhetoric, but, in reality, he’s all hat and no cattle. He couldn’t riposte and refute any of the charges made by the Opposition against his government, especially about the political brinkmanship. On the contrary, though the outcome was predictable, the Opposition successfully put the failures of the BJP government before the nation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government faced a vote of no-confidence in the Lok Sabha, the first in 15 years. The last time a vote of no-confidence held was during prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure in 2003.

After a raging 12-hour debate, the NDA government defeated the no-confidence motion by 199 votes. While 126 members supported the motion, 325 MPs rejected it. A total of 451 MPs were present and voted in the House and the majority mark required in a House with an effective strength of 534 MPs came down to 226.

The day-long session in the Lower House saw the government and the Opposition trade charges and a moment of drama when Congress president Rahul Gandhi, after a blistering speech, hugged the Prime Minister that put him hot and bothered.

The TDP, which is scheduled to face an Assembly election along with the Lok Sabha polls early next year, used the no-confidence motion to take to the people the party’s demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh. The party mounted a strong attack on the ruling BJP on the one hand, and disrupting the speech of Prime Minister Modi through sloganeering on the other.

In a never-before move Rahul Gandhi had crossed the Lok Sabha floor at the end of the scathing speech, and hugged the Prime Minister. Late in the evening, PM Modi gave a point-by-point rebuttal to the attack. He also took on Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, whose party had moved the no-confidence motion.

The strength of the House slid after Naveen Patnaik's BJD, Telangana's ruling party TRS and BJP ally Shiv Sena skipped the voting. Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK voted in support of the government.

The no-confidence motion debate outlined the broad battle lines of the 2019 general elections. While Congress president Rahul Gandhi unveiled his narrative for the Opposition parties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone and tenor of the likely BJP electoral pitch.

In his response to the debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi showcased the achievements of his government  --  electrification of 18,000 villages, healthcare for all, LPG for the poor, initiatives for farmers, One-rank one pension for soldiers, the flagship Goods and Services tax and the strengthening of economy.

During the debate, Modi said since taking office in May 2014 his government had made great strides against corruption. “We started a war against black money and this war is not going to stop,” he told parliament.

Authorities have ordered nearly 250,000 shell companies to be shut down and another 200,000-250,000 are on their radar, Modi said, blaming the previous Congress government of shielding corrupt people.

Targeting Sonia Gandhi over her recent statement on numerical strength of the parties supporting the no-confidence motion, PM Modi said he was reminded of 1999, when she joined other parties to challenge the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. "She stood outside Rashtrapati Bhavan and said, 'We have 272 and more are joining us'. She destabilised Atal-Ji's government and never formed one herself," he said.

Taking on Rahul Gandhi over his remarks on Rafale, PM Modi said, "They raised Rafale issue and I was surprised...  Due to one careless allegation in the House on Rafale, both nations had to release statements. Does this childish behaviour befit anybody?"

Modi said he told Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu that he moved the no-confidence motion "just because of your internal politics with the YSR Congress Party".

Earlier, terming the no-trust vote against his government a result of the Opposition’s “arrogance”, Modi called on all parties to dismiss the move and accused the Congress of working with the mindset of ‘Modi hatao’.

Responding to the debate on the motion, he said some people are indulging in “negative politics.” He also took a dig at Rahul Gandhi for asking him to stand up for a hug after walking across to his chair in the Lok Sabha, saying the Congress president appeared to be in a hurry to occupy his seat.

“Only the electorate of the country can decide his fate and make him sit on his chair,” Modi said, before asking sarcastically, “What is the hurry?” Gandhi was present in the House when the Prime Minister made the statement.

Congress has no faith in the election commission, the judiciary, in the RBI or in the international agencies. They have confidence in nothing, Modi said.

“You called the surgical strike a Jumla Strike. You can abuse me as much as you want. Stop insulting the Jawans of India. I will not tolerate this insult to our armed forces,” Modi said in his address.

Mentioning the popularity of phone banking before net-banking, Modi took a dig at the Congress and the party's bias. He said before net banking was popular, there was 'phone banking' invented by the Congress. One phone call and those favoured by the Congress got loans. This created the NPA problem, which his Government is solving, he added.

Modi said “Congress leaders feel I can’t see them in the eye. They are correct. I am too small compared to them. How did one family treat Netaji Bose, Sardar Patel, Loknayak JP, Morarjibhai Desai, Charan Singh Ji, Chandra Shekhar Ji, Pranab Da, Deve Gowda Ji & Sharad Pawar Ji? Everyone knows.”

Speaking ahead of the Prime Minister, the Congress president refrained from referring to ‘secularism’, invoking instead the theme of protecting ‘Ambedkar’s Constitution’ as the main narrative to indicate his broad theme for the 2019 campaign.

Gandhi, leading the Congress offensive, alleged that the government's deal with France for 36 Rafale fighter jets was massively overpriced and its claim that details could not be revealed was an "untruth". He said when PM Modi went to France, "with some magic" powers, the price per plane increased to Rs 1,600 crore, much more than Rs 520 crore when the Congress was in power.

Gandhi had alleged that the defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, had lied to the nation claiming that India was bound by a secrecy clause in the Rafale fighter jet deal signed with France.

He said that French President Emmanuel Macron told him there is no secrecy pact between India and France. But the French government countered his claim with an official statement confirming that a secrecy pact exists between the two countries.

In her reply, Sitharaman also contradicted Rahul and cited Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between the two countries on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, which calls for the protection of classified information and materials exchanged under the pact.

Singling out the BJP leadership of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, Rahul said they fear losing power because they know that “other processes will start against them” as soon as they are out of office.

Leading the Opposition assault, Gandhi accused the Prime Minister of unleashing “jumla strikes” on the people, and of becoming a “bhagidar” (partner) in the Rafale fighter deal instead of acting as the “chowkidar” (watchman) he had promised the country during the 2014 election campaign.

Without taking his name, Rahul Gandhi targeted Union minister Jayant Sinha for felicitating lynching convicts in Jharkhand, drawing BJP lawmakers’ ire. Gandhi asked, “Why doesn’t the PM speak up on lynching,” and added “These incidents aren’t just on a person, they attack on BR Ambedkar. We won’t stand this.”

Sinha had last week expressed his “regret” after facing intense criticism for felicitating seven convicted cow vigilantes in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh last week.

Rahul Gandhi said, “Everybody understands the relationship the prime minister has with certain people. Everybody understands the amount of money that goes into the marketing of the prime minister and everybody knows who have funded that. One of those people was given the Rafale contract. The gentleman benefitted to the tune of Rs 45,000 crore,” Rahul alleged.

Uproar was created in the House as Rahul targeted PM Modi and defence minister Sitharaman over the Rafale deal. “The defence minister said there is secrecy pact with France on Rafale deal. I personally met PM of France and asked him if any such pact existed. He clearly said there is no pact,” Gandhi said.

The Congress leader said the government’s five slabs of GST destroyed crores of lives. PM Modi doesn’t talk to shopkeepers. He only meets the big 10-20 businessmen of this country.

India’s youth believed in Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The PM had said he will provide employment to two-crore people every year and yet only 4 lakh people got jobs. This is the truth of their unfulfilled promises... They tell you to make ‘pakodas’ instead, Gandhi said in a scathing attack on the Modi government.

The Congress president also hits out at BJP over demonetisation.

Biggest mob lynching took place in 1984: Rajnath Singh

In his reply, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said his government has already asked states to take stringent action and make strict laws against incidents of lynching and vigilantism. “The biggest incident of mob lynching happened during 1984... And a big leader (a reference to Rajiv Gandhi) said when a big tree falls, the earth shakes. And they (Congress) are trying to give us lessons on mob lynching,” he said.

Unable to decide, BJD walks out

Even before Speaker Sumitra Mahajan called Jayadev Galla of the TDP to speak on the motion, BJD floor leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said: “During the last 14 years, BJD has witnessed that the UPA government’s rule of 10 years and four years of NDA have done injustice to the people of Odisha. So this discussion will not, in any way, be fruitful for the people of Odisha. Therefore, we are walking out. We are not participating in this discussion.”

Maya, Mulayam no friend of Dalits: Paswan

At a time when BJP governments in different states have faced criticism of failing to check attacks on people from Dalit communities, Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, the chief of NDA ally Lok Janshakti Party, took on leaders of both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and alleged that both parties are against the interests of Dalits.

Shiv Sena leader says ‘lost people’s confidence’

In an embarrassment for the BJP-led government, NDA ally Shiv Sena on Friday boycotted the Lok Sabha discussion on motion of no-confidence against the Narendra Modi government. The Sena shares power with the BJP at both the Centre and in Maharashtra. Asked whether this could lead to a break-up, a source in the Sena said, “Let us see…. We are not worried.”

PM has become a travelling salesman: TMC

The BJP is losing by-elections and they lost even in Karnataka. The Prime Minister has become a travelling statesman. He went to Bengal for a meeting for no reason: Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress said in Parliament, referring to PM Modi’s recent rally in Midnapore. “The PM is spending Rs 1,800 crore for globe-trotting and our poor farmers are committing suicide,” Roy said.

Ruckus during Modi’s speech

Barely five minutes or so into Prime Minister Modi’s speech during the no-confidence motion debate, members of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), one of whom had moved the motion, came down to the Well of the House.

Modi continued his speech, he also said that unlike in Andhra Pradesh, the TRS in Telangana acted with “maturity” and started “working towards development”. At this, the TDP leaders returned to the Well with their slogans.

(Courtesy: Mitaan Express)

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