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George can speak, but boycott stays: Cong

Times News Network

Monday 18 August 2003

Article paru dans le Times of India, ?dition du 18 ao?t 2003.

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday said that it had no objection to George Fernandes speaking on the no-confidence motion, moved by party chief Sonia Gandhi, but asserted that the defence minister’s boycott would continue.

"Fernandes’ boycott will continue. But on Monday it is a different matter in the wake of a no-confidence motion moved by Gandhi against Vajpayee’s government. Any member of the House is free to speak on the motion," party spokesman Pawan Kumar Bansal told reporters here.

He, however, said that any attempt on the part of the defence minister to make a separate statement on defence matters or on the CVC report would be boycotted by the party. In this regard, he referred to the Business Advisory Committee listing a statement by Fernandes on Monday evening.

Bansal said that the party had no objection to Fernandes speaking on the motion as he was a member of the House and leader of a party.

"He is free to speak on the motion as a private member, leader of a party or even on behalf of the government," he said, adding "we will listen to him on the motion".

Gandhi would be meeting leaders of like-minded Opposition parties to finalise the floor strategy on Monday.

While Gandhi, who has moved the no-confidence motion against the government, would be initiating the debate, senior party leaders, including Shivraj Patil, S Jaipal Reddy, Priyaranjan Dasmunsi and Mani Shanker Aiyar, would be speaking on behalf of the party on the motion.

The no-confidence motion is a brahmastra, the ultimate weapon in the Opposition’s armoury to censure the government of the day, that has worked only once in India’s parliamentary history.

Indeed, it is never moved to vote out the government: If the government goes, like it happened in 1979, it is due to fissures within the ruling party that affect the majority support.

Then, it is the numbers game governed by political and parliamentary vagaries.

In 1979, the Morarji Desai government, of which Vajpayee and L K Advani were members, was valiantly defended by George Fernandes. He quit the government soon after as part of a parliamentary collapse that none, including the mover of the resolution, Yashwantrao Chavan, could have visualised.

Assuming that she will get support of 10 per cent of the members present, leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi will move her career’s first motion on Monday. It will also be the first in the 13th Lok Sabha.

It will be the 26th no-trust motion in the Lok Sabha’s history. Twenty-three of them have been moved against the Congress that, for a change, will be the attacker and not the defender on Monday.

Of these 23, two were moved by Vajpayee. Having earned praise from Jawaharlal Nehru for his oratory and parliamentary craft, Vajpayee first moved a no-confidence motion against his daughter Indira Gandhi in 1967 and 25 years later, against the Narasimha Rao government. He will now be defending his government’s performance against the attack led by Sonia, the fourth challenger from the Nehru-Gandhi stable.

Ironically, a record 15 motions were moved against governments led by Indira Gandhi, Sonia’s mother-in-law. There were three against the short-lived Lal Bahadur Shastri government and an equal number against that of Narasimha Rao.

That the Narasimha Rao government in 1993 defeated the motion by a close margin of 14, only to earn the odium of being charged with having "bribed" some Opposition members, and the way the Vajpayee government lost a no-trust vote by a single vote in 1999 are nuggets of recent Parliamentary history.

Besides the opportunity to censure the government of the day, the Opposition has at times used the no-trust move to get the Prime Minister of the day to talk. Old timers say the the first no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha’s history was moved by Acharya Kriplani against Nehru in August, 1963.

It was in the aftermath of the military debacle against China. Nehru was keeping bad health. Otherwise a stickler for attending Parliament and giving its work great importance, Nehru was at that time perceived as unwilling to face the Opposition.

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