Centre Wins No-Confidence Vote; In Debate, Modi Invokes Army, Passes Buck on Violence

Earlier in the day, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had attacked Narendra Modi for his links to certain businessmen and his government's policies.

New Delhi: The Lok Sabha today took up for debate the no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government. This is the first no-confidence vote India will see in 15 years. The Modi government won the voice vote held in parliament at around 11 pm. 

The motion was moved by the Telugu Desam Party and admitted by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Wednesday, July 18, the first day of the monsoon session of parliament. MP Jayadev Galla initiated the debate on behalf of the party.

“People are tired of empty promises and unfulfilled promises,” Galla said, bringing up the issue of special category status for Andhra Pradesh. “It is not a war between TDP and BJP, but between morality and majority. Motion of no confidence is against the lack of fairness, lack of trust, lack of unbiased approach towards Andhra Pradesh.”

When Galla said that neighbouring states received more during the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Rashtra Samiti jumped into the well to protest. The speaker asked for calm in the house.

According to the MP, Andhra Pradesh had been deceived, “Since 2016, we have been waiting for the special package that the Union finance minister had said would be equivalent to a Special Category Status (SCS). You (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) deceived us into believing and agreeing to the special package on the lines of the 14th Finance Commission. You didn’t even bother giving it legislative backing.”

After Galla, BJP MP Rakesh Singh addressed the Lok Sabha. He attacked Rahul Gandhi and previous Congress governments, saying, “This time the no-confidence motion is distinct from all other motions of no confidence till now. For the first time, we are seeing a no-confidence motion against a government that is working so well for the country. We recently saw Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy shed tears and say that he has gulped poison in order to form the coalition. I am not sure how many parties have to do the same if they support the motion.”

Singh said that the Narendra Modi government has been “extremely successful” in raising the issues of poor people and bringing them out of poverty. He brought up several schemes including the Ujjwala Yojana, Ayushman Bharat and crop insurance schemes to claim that the poor in the country would “fold their hand in thanks to the prime minister”.

Lok Sabha in session. Credit: PTI

Lok Sabha in session. Credit: PTI

Rahul Gandhi on Modi’s ‘jumla strike’

Congress president Rahul Gandhi spoke after Singh, beginning his speech by talking to Galla. “You are a victim of the fantastic 21st century political weapon and there are many other victims like you. This weapon is called the ‘jumla strike’. The farmers, Dalits, tribals, youths and women are also victims of this weapon,” Gandhi said.

“Symptoms of the jumla strike include: First there is a great sense of excitement and happiness. After that there is shock and then followed by regret. Youth in India trusted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In every speech he gave, he said he will give jobs to two crore youth. But only four lakh people have got jobs,” the Congress president continued.

Gandhi also brought up Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah in his speech. “He said he is India’s chowkidaar. But when Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah increases his income by 16,000 times, Prime Minister Modi remains mum,” he said.

The speaker said Jay Shah’s name would be expunged from the parliament records.

Gandhi next moved to Nirmala Sitharaman and the Rafale deal. “Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said she will tell the country about the cost. Then she said it’s a secrecy pact between both countries. I asked the French president about this secrecy pact but he denied the existence of any such pact. He also told me that he had no problems in making public the cost,” Gandhi said.

“I looked Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the eye, and he couldn’t even face me. He is not a chowkidaar, he is bhaghidaar,” Gandhi continued.

Several BJP MPs including Ananth Kumar protested as Gandhi gave his speech. “Dariye mat (Don’t be scared),” Gandhi said to them. The speaker then adjourned the session for a few minutes. Once the session was resumed, she asked for peace in the house.

After Gandhi resumed speaking, he said Modi and Amit Shah “cannot afford to lose power because when they do, other processes will start against them”. At the end of his speech, he walked across to the prime minister and hugged him. Modi looked surprised, and shook Gandhi’s hand.

Rahul Gandhi hugging Narendra Modi, and winking afterwards. Credit: PTI

Rahul Gandhi hugging Narendra Modi, and winking afterwards. Credit: PTI

The speaker gave Nirmala Sitharaman a chance to speak after Gandhi, saying that she deserved the chance to respond to the allegations that had been made. The defence minister said that Gandhi’s allegations regarding the Rafale deal were “completely wrong”.

The BJP has said that it will be moving a privilege motion against the Congress chief for his remarks on Modi, News18 reported.

Later in the evening, the French government issued a statement taking cognisance of Gandhi’s remarks, ANI reported. The statement said that India and France had agreed to protect classified information provided by the other.

Gandhi has defended himself, saying he wasn’t alone in the meeting. “I stand by what I said. Let them (France) deny if they want. Along with me Anand Sharma and Ex-PM were also there.”

Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy address the Lok Sabha next, criticising the Modi government for its farmers’ policy, demonetisation and rising incidents of lynching. “The BJP wants Congress-mukt Bharat and a Muslim-mukt Bharat but the Trinamool Congress wants an India that does not live in fear,” Roy said.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi president Vinod Kumar Boinapalli, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Communist Party of India (Marxist) legislator Mohammad Salim also addressed the Lower House.

Opposition doesn’t know what people want: Rajnath Singh

Speaking after Salim, Union home minister Rajnath Singh said, “Those who want to bring the no-confidence motion against this government, none of them have the strength of numbers and they have to get together to do so. The opposition has been forced to unite against us.”

Singh insisted that the opposition was not understanding the will of the people and the people’s verdict. “It was 15 years ago that the last no confidence motion was brought in against the Vajpayee government. From then, till now, the Congress has ruled for most of these years and we never introduced a no confidence motion. We believed that Congress had the mandate and we respected it and hence did not move a no confidence motion against them,” the home minister said.

As the opposition protested Singh’s remarks, the speaker adjourned the house for five minutes, the second adjournment of the day.

Parliament during the monsoon session. Credit: PTI

Parliament during the monsoon session. Credit: PTI

When the session resumed, Sumitra Mahajan commented on Rahul Gandhi’s hug, “The prime minister was sitting in the house in his capacity as the PM. We should keep this in mind before making any move or gesture.”

When Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised objections to BJP leaders and the speaker attacking Rahul Gandhi over the hug, Singh said, “I am myself going to hug Kharge ji, but after this session gets over.”

Taking a dig at Gandhi towards the end of his speech, Singh said, “There are some who are born with a silver spoon, for them the pain of the poor can be a matter of hearing but not of suffering.”

After him, Nationalist Congress Party chief Tariq Anwar spoke, alleging that the prime minister is “silently supporting” mob lynchings. Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan addressed the Lok Sabha next, congratulating the Modi government for “electrifying villages”. Paswan also said that there needs to be more representation of marginalised groups in the judiciary.

BJP is dividing the nation: Mallikarjun Kharge

Leader of the opposition in the house Mallikarjun Kharge said in the Lok Sabha that the government is dividing society, and the BJP’s devotion to the RSS is against the principles of B.R. Ambedkar.

“The way you are operating now, the way you are mistreating minorities, compromising on freedom of speech, spreading inequality, democracy would have been demolished by now had we adhered to your measures as well,” Kharge said.

The Congress leader also said that the Modi government was choosing to ignore all the good work the party had done while in power, including giving higher prices to farmers.

AIADMK MP J. Jayavardhan called for a more federal structure in his speech. After him, Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi addressed the gathering, saying that all institutions in the country are under threat under the Modi government. “Whenever the government is criticised for something, we get only one response: ‘Hindu-Muslim, Hindustan-Pakistan, shamshan-kabristan [crematorium and graveyard],” Trivedi said.

You did not want a debate, Modi tells opposition

A little after 9 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi started speaking in the house. He requested everyone to vote against the motion, while also saying that the no-confidence motion was a good opportunity. “Today the nation has seen the negativity expressed by some members. India saw how some people are so deeply opposed to development,” the prime minister said.

“If you were not prepared for the debate why did you bring the motion? Why were you trying to delay the motion?” the prime minister asked the opposition. “This motion has not been brought unknowingly or out of overconfidence, but because of arrogance.”

“To remove one Modi, see who all they are trying to bring together,” the prime minister said. “We are here because we have the blessings of 125 crore Indians. We are not here for selfish interests. We have served the nation with the Mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’.”

The prime minister then listed the “achievements” of his government, saying that they had been working for the marginalised. He touted his government’s rural electrification, Ujjwala Yojana, Ayushman Bharat, agrarian policy.

The prime minister also said that the Congress does not trust anyone – including the chief justice, the central bank, international agencies, the Election Commission – because they do not trust themselves.

Modi talked the “jawans of India”, referring to the opposition’s remarks about the surgical strikes “jumla”. ““I am ready to listen to all your abuses, but do not do so to the Indian Army.

Modi also brought up his “working class” origins. “Who am I to look at you in the eyes?” Modi said. “You are naamdaar (dynast), but I am kaamdaar (working class), how can I dare to look at you in the eyes.”

The prime minister talked about Rahul Gandhi’s wink too: “Talking about eyes, we have seen quite a lot of eye movement today.”

Modi also brought up Andhra Pradesh. Special status for the state had been the key reason behind the TDP filing the no-confidence motion. “Whether it is the construction of new capital Amaravati or the welfare of farmers in the state, I want to assure everyone that the Centre will make all efforts for Andhra Pradesh,” he said.

He also said that the state government’s were responsible for curtailing lynching: “Any instance of violence brings shame to the nation. I will once again urge the state governments to punish those who indulge in violence.”

“The country is at an important stage,” Modi concluded. “A New India will become the country’s new aspirations. In this changing global context, we must all move together. I assure the people of Andhra Pradesh we will make all efforts for their welfare.”

BJD, Shiv Sena walk out before debate; TRS to abstain

The Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal staged a walkout before the debate started. “We had no choice, this was a perfect decision. We are not helping the BJP government,” BJD lawmaker Tataghat Satpathy told NDTV.

The Shiv Sena had announced before the vote that it will be abstaining, and also walked out of the house. “We are with the NDA today, can’t say about tomorrow,” the party spokesperson said.

Earlier, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the issue of the amount of time given to opposition parties in parliament, saying it was not possible to hold a debate “within one minute”.

Around 4 pm on Friday, the Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samiti announced that it will be abstaining from voting in the no-confidence motion.

Ahead of the motion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with Amit Shah and key BJP MPs inside parliament.

There have been 26 no-confidence motions in the Lok Sabha in the past. Twenty-five of them were unsuccessful, and one did not reach the voting stage because Morarji Desai resigned as prime minister.

The National Democratic Alliance has 312 members in the 533-member house. The majority mark is 267, as 11 seats are vacant. Though the numbers are stacked against the opposition, the Congress and other parties have indicated that they are keen to utilise the debate to bring up a range of of issues including farm distress, slow economic growth and rising incidents of lynching.

Before the discussion, Union minister Ananth Kumar had said that the NDA would prove its majority in the parliament and said the opposition would see the strength of “NDA plus” during the no-trust motion.

BJP leaders had said that ahead of the assembly polls in four states due later this year and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP leaders see the debate as an opportunity to reach out to the masses with “successes” of the government and also to attack the “opportunist alliance” of opposition parties.

The opposition move for a no-confidence motion was not allowed by the speaker in the last Budget session of parliament, a move that was criticised by many.

(With PTI inputs)