And the PM has introduced the trust vote in the Lok Sabha.
The battle over the nuclear deal today shifted to the Lok Sabha which began a two-day debate on the confidence motion moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who asserted that every single decision of his government was in the "best interest" of the country. With Speaker Somnath Chatterjee brushing aside his party's demand for his resignation and presiding over the proceedings, Singh moved his one-line motion "that this House expresses its confidence in the Council of Ministers". Twelve hours have been alloted for the debate and the voting is expected tomorrow evening at about 6 PM after the Prime Minister's reply.Singh, who before entering Parliament expressed confidence that the UPA government would prove its majority on the floor of the House, made a brief speech in which he did not not speak on the merits of the Indo-US nuclear deal over which the Left parties withdrew support necessitating the trust vote. Moving the motion, he said for the past couple of decades the country was used to governments being forced to seek a vote of confidence within months of coming to power. "I regret that this session of parliament has been convened when the attention of the government has been on the economy, particularly on the control of inflation and on implementing programmes for the welfare of our people, particularly our farmers. This exercise, I submit sir, was wholly avoidable," he said. "I assure the House and the country that every single decision, every policy initiative we have taken was in the fullest confidence that we are doing so in in the best interests of our people and our country," the 75-year-old leader said to the thumping of desks by the ruling UPA MPs.
The Prime Minister's opening speech was heard by a full house with leaders of both the ruling coalition and the opposition including Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and LK Advani following it in rapt attention.In a veiled dig at the Left parties which withdrew support forcing the confidence vote Singh said if the government was here after a tenure of four years the credit for this should go to the leaders of the UPA including Sonia Gandhi and to the wise and visionary leaderships of Jyoti Basu, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and M Karunanidhi They were all the architects of our coalition government. It is their wisdom and sagacity that has helped me and our government function for these four years, he said. He said the intimation of withdrawal of Left parties support came when he was in Japan and as soon as he came back he met the President and offered to submit himself to the vote of confidence in Parliament. Sir, I seek the support of this house today on the basis of our entire record in our office over the past four years Singh said adding, "I have no doubt that the people of India when they consider what we have done will reaffirm their confidence in us in our government." Tracing the events leading to withdrawal of support Singh said he had given an assurance to all parties including the Left that if the government had been allowed to complete negotiations with the IAEA and the NSG he would himself come to parliament for guidance before operationalising the deal. Leader of the opposition LK Advani who took the floor immediately after the prime minister and CPI M leader MD Saleem attacked the government over the way it went ahead with the nuclear deal.
Advani accused the government of misusing democratic institutions to convert itself from "minority into majority". The BJP leader said the prime minister was "singularly" responsible for the present crisis and held that the Indo-US nuclear deal has become an agreement between two individuals, making India "subservient" and a "junior partner". He made it clear that the BJP, if voted to power, would not not scrap the deal but would renegotiate it. "UPA is like a patient in the ICU room. The first question everyone asks is whether he is going to survive or not not," Advani said opposing the trust vote in his speech which was repeatedly interrupted by the ruling side. Advani complained that the draft text of the safeguards agreement was described as "privileged" and "classified" but was circulated to IAEA members first and the House was denied an opportunity to go into it. He claimed that after the Pokhran II tests the Prime Minister had said that it was not not in national interest to have India as a nuclear weapon state, but the statement was objected to by Singh. The Prime Minister made a brief intervention in which he said that when he spoke in the Rajya Sabha in 1998, he had stated that "We are all opposed to sanctions and we must prepare our country to face the challenge of sanction". Twitting Singh on his status as a Rajya Sabha member, he said it would be an irony that a Prime Minister would not not be able to vote for his confidence motion for the first time. Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee quickly interjected to point out that the then Prime Ministers I K Gujral and H D Deve Gowda also did not not vote on their motions of confidence.
Advani said had the UPA combine followed coalition dharma, the confidence motion would not not have been necessary. "They could have continued in a state of paralysis right up to the elections. Sir, they could have their own problems. They are not very eager to face elections. At the same time they did not destabilise you. "They were willing to allow you to continue but you invited it for yourself and having invited it, please do not not call it a distraction. It is part of the Constitutional parliamentary system. Every government must be in a position to prove its majority in the Lok Sabha," he said. On the overall performance of the government too, Advani had strong words describing it as a misrule of four years. He attacked the government on its failure to check rising prices and to give succour to farmers, who have been committing suicide. Irrespective of the result of the voting on the motion, the people's verdict is very clear, he added. The ruling side fielded External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the chief negotiator with the Left parties on the deal, who put up a spirited defence of the government's policies and attacked the former allies for attempting to bring down the government on nuclear deal. "Keep your hand on your heart. Is this an issue on which you are bringing down the government," Mukherjee asked the Left parties and counselled them not to associate with the BJP in voting against the government. Referring to a CPI(M) member's comments that they cannot jump from a running train because BJP was in the compartment, a reference to the two parties voting against the motion, Mukherjee advised the Marxists: "don't jump from the running train. Wait for the next station which the train is approaching." CPI(M) member Saleem, the first speaker in his party, attacked the government accusing it of "diplomatic process outsourcing" to the United States. "The performance of the government becomes fast when it comes to the nuclear deal," he said likening it to taking dope by cricketers for enhancing their performance. Noting that the Left had not supported the government to go ahead with the nuclear deal, the IAEA safeguards agreement and strategic alliance with the US, he said the support was on the basis of a Common Minimum Programme (CMP). "There has been no minimum programme with President Bush," Salim said in his spirited speech in which he accused the Congress-led coalition of resorting to overdraft from the "debit card" made available by the Left parties. He regretted that the speed and performance of the UPA government slowed down drastically when it comes to issues like price rise and implementation of the Sachar Commission report.