Excerpts from the speech by Shri L.K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition in the debate in Parliament on the Confidence Motion on July 21, 2008.
The UPA Government came into being in May 2004. It was sworn in on May 22. Exactly four years and two months later ? that is, tomorrow on July 22 ? it faces the likelihood of being voted out.
As a matter of fact, the Government has remained non-functional for a long time. I have seen all the governments in New Delhi since 1947. There have been some weak and short-lived governments, too. But never have I seen a Government in a state of paralysis for such a long time.
About a fortnight ago, I had said that the condition of the Government is so bad that it has practically remained in the ICU for the past one year. What will happen to this terminally ill patient tomorrow, is the question being debated by the entire nation.
PM himself has destabilised the UPA Government
Mr. Speaker Sir, it is important that the debate is focused on why the Prime Minister was forced to seek a trust vote now. After all, his Government could well have continued in a state of paralysis for its full term of five years. Why did the Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh lose its majority? Why did it plunge itself and the country into this crisis?
The first point I would like to emphasise is that the Opposition has played no role in creating this instability. The fact of the matter is, the Government has destabilised itself. I would go a step further and affirm that the Prime Minister has personally destabilised his own Government.
It is necessary to appreciate this point because, although we in the Opposition want to defeat this Government on the floor of the House, we cannot be accused of plotting to topple the Government. There is a difference between defeating a Government and destabilising it. Sarkar ko haraane ke liye to hum vote denge. Parantu use asthir banaane ka kaam to swayam Pradhan Mantri ne kiya hai.
Here lies the difference between the conduct of the BJP and the Congress. In the past four years, the BJP or the NDA never tried to destabilise the UPA Government. In contrast, the Congress destabilised the first Vajpayee Government in 1999, within 13 months of its coming into being. Earlier, it had destabilised the Governments of Shri Chandra Shekhar, Shri Deve Gowda and Shri I.K. Gujral.
A long saga of betrayals
This time, however, the instability is entirely the making of the Congress itself. My Party has many serious differences with the Left, and these differences will remain. But I cannot blame the Left parties for destabilising the Government.
The Prime Minister precipitated a situation in which he forced the Left parties to withdraw support to the Government. The reasons that led them to take this ultimate decision cannot be treated as an internal matter between the Congress and the Left. They go to the heart of democratic conduct in the era of coalitions.
Our country has entered the era of coalitions. One-party dominance of the Congress has become a thing of the past. Nevertheless, the Congress leadership continues to behave in the old fashion. At the root of the present crisis is the Congress party'sarrogance and inability to work with other parties in the spirit of the Coalition Dharma.
When Shri Vajpayee formed the Government in March 1998, the BJP was the only party in the NDA that had included in its election manifesto the commitment to make India a nuclear weapons power. But we discussed this issue with all our alliance partners, secured their support and included it in the common minimum programme of the NDA (which was called the National Agenda of Governance). Those issues on which there was no agreement with our alliance partners were kept out of the common programme, even though they were a part of the BJP'smanifesto.
In contrast, the Indo-US nuclear deal was neither in the election manifesto of the Congress party, nor did the Congress consult with its allies and supporting parties to include this issue in the common minimum programme of the UPA.
This shows the fundamental difference between how Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ran the NDA coalition government for six years and how Dr. Manmohan Singh and Smt. Sonia Gandhi have run the UPA coalition government for the past four years.
I would like to tell the Prime Minister: You may be seeking a trust vote in the House, but trust has been completely missing in the conduct of your party and your Government. The PM and the Congress president have behaved in an untrustworthy manner with their own supporting parties, with Parliament, and with the Nation as a whole.
Let me illustrate this by asking the Prime Minister a few questions:
Congress does not believe in Coalition Dharma
Today everybody in the Congress has been saying that the Nuclear Deal with America is in the national interest and that there will be no compromise on it. If you felt strongly about it, why did you not include this issue in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA? Why did you not include it even in the manifesto of the Congress party?
After all, CMP was the basis on which the Left parties, with 62 MPs, had agreed to extend outside support to your Government. Neither the Congress nor the UPA had a majority in this House in May 2004. And your Government could not have come into being without the Left'ssupport.
Is it ?coalition dharma? that you pushed ahead with the Nuclear Deal even though you had no mandate to do so? In spite of the objections raised by both the BJP and the Left parties ? and we objected from our own divergent perspectives ? your Government signed the 123 Agreement with the United States. When the Left protested, you devised the mechanism of a UPA-Left Committee to study all aspects of the Nuclear Deal. You made Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the seniormost minister in your Government, chairman of this committee.
On your behalf, Shri Mukherjee gave a solemn assurance to the Left that the findings of the committee would be taken into account before finalising the draft safeguards agreement between India and the IAEA. You pleaded with the Left to trust you, but you did not keep your word. You went to the IAEA stealthily.
Disrespect for Parliament
In quick succession, you also betrayed the Nation. Your Government had been reduced to a minority Government when the Left parties withdrew their support. On that day, Shri Pranab Mukherjee publicly assured that the Government would not go the IAEA before seeking a trust vote in Parliament. Moreover, he even stated that he was giving this assurance after telephonically speaking to the Prime Minister, who was in Japan at the time to attend the G-8 Summit. This assurance was also flouted.
Frankly, Mr. Speaker Sir, I was stunned into disbelief when the Prime Minister wantonly disregarded an assurance given by his own Foreign Minister. I demand an answer from the Prime Minister why he did so? This House has a right to know who was right ? the PM or his seniormost colleague? Only one of the two could have been truthful.
Moreover, what kind of a Government is this in which the Prime Minister not only betrays the trust of the supporting parties, but also shows lack of trust in his own Foreign Minister? Does such a Government, in which everything about the Nuclear Deal is so secretive that it is not even shared with the Foreign Minister, deserve to continue? NO!
Let me give another example of the Government'slack of transparency. It claimed that the draft safeguards agreement is a ?classified? document. But the same so-called ?classified? document was up on the Internet as soon it reached Vienna! What an irony it is that the political parties and governments of the countries represented on the Board of Governors of the IAEA have an opportunity to debate the contents of the draft safeguards agreement concerning India, but the people and the political parties in India are deprived of that opportunity.
Is it not a poor reflection on our democracy that Members of Parliament do not have an opportunity to discuss the contents of an agreement that binds our country in perpetuity? Is this not disrespect for Parliament? And does a Government that has no confidence in Parliament have the right to claim the confidence of Members of Parliament? NO!
Where is the ?broad national consensus??
Mr. Speaker Sir, I now wish to draw the attention of the House to an even more glaring instance of the Prime Minister breaking his own assurance to Parliament.
I have with me here the transcript of the press conference that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed in Washington on July 20, 2005 ? that is, two days after he and US President George Bush issued a joint statement about the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is worth reminding the House that back home, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had already issued a statement criticising the joint statement. Some of the senior leaders of my party had met at the residence of Shri Atalji, discussed the contents of the joint statement, and expressed our serious concerns at that very initial stage.
One press correspondent asked Dr. Manmohan Singh a pointed question: ?Mr. Prime Minister, do you see any resistance coming forward from your allies and the opposition in putting the new India-U.S. policy to practice? And will you seek a parliamentary consensus or approval to the new direction you seem to be taking in foreign policy??
This is how the PM replied. ?Well, the Parliament in our country is sovereign,? he said. ?It goes without saying that we can move forward only on the basis of a broad national consensus.?
If Dr. Manmohan Singh truly believes that ?Parliament in our country is sovereign?, why did he not seek a sense of the two Houses before rushing into the 123 Agreement and the safeguards agreement with the IAEA?
I would also like to know from the Prime Minister whether he thinks that there is a ?broad national consensus? behind the Nuclear Deal in its present form. The answer is as clear as daylight. Why then has he chosen to move forward?
Today the House wants to know what efforts he made to create a broad national consensus. Did you convene a single all-party meeting on the Nuclear Deal?
Honourable Members of Parliament will recall that my Party and the NDA had repeatedly voiced the demand for setting up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), with representatives from all parties, to study all aspects of the Nuclear Deal. The Government did not accept the demand. Why? Even though the Nuclear Deal has far-reaching implications for India, the PM probably thought that the MPs are incapable of giving considered views on the subject. Does this not mean lack of confidence in the MPs? If the Government did not trust the MPs, what right does it now have to seek their trust?
Strategic Partnership with USA, but on Equal Terms
It is my charge against the Prime Minister that he has reduced an important agreement between two sovereign nations into a private agreement between two individuals ? himself and President Bush. He has behaved as a junior partner in this partnership.
Indeed, both the text and the context of the Nuclear Deal right from the beginning have created an uneasy sense among Indians that the UPA Government wants India to accept an inferior position in the world order.
Let me make it clear ? and this is where my party differs sharply with the Left ? that the BJP wants to see friendly relations between India and the United States. Indeed, as the world'slargest democracy and the world'sstrongest democracy, I believe that our two countries should forge a strategic partnership to pursue common goals.
It goes without saying that India should also simultaneously deepen friendship and cooperation with all the other major powers?Russia, Japan and others?in today'sworld, which we want to see as a multi-polar world tomorrow. A multi-polar world in which India itself becomes an important pole, working for the welfare of the entire mankind.
Let me emphasise, however, that we want a strategic partnership with the US on equal terms. The BJP will never support a relationship with any country, howsoever strong and powerful it may be, in which India becomes its client or a subservient partner.
It is shocking that the Prime Minister wants India to accept ?strategic subservience? in its relationship with the United States. The aspect of ?strategic subservience? is most evident in the restrictions that the Government has accepted on our strategic programme.
The Nuclear Deal in its present form is nothing but acceptance of severe curbs on our strategic weapons programme. All the American interlocutors, whether belong to the Republican Party or the Democratic Party or are independent experts, have made it clear that, as far as their country is concerned, their principal objective is to bring India into the Non-Proliferation Regime. What they want fits in well with the critical stand that Dr. Manmohan Singh took after Pokharan II in 1998. Both want India to come within the Non-Proliferation Regime dicated by the US.
Therefore, the Nuclear Deal in its present form means that India will not be allowed to perform Pokharan III or Pokharan IV, without inviting termination of the agreement and severe punitive action. This is unacceptable to my party, to the NDA, to the majority of MPs in this House, and to the people at large.
UPA Government'sfalse claims and dismal track record on ?Bijlee for All?
Mr. Speaker Sir, even though my party opposes the Nuclear Deal in its present form, let it be clearly understood that we are not against nuclear power as such. We are not even against nuclear cooperation with other countries, including USA, on such terms as protect all our national interests. I am saying this because the Congress party has already started a propaganda drive that seeks to mislead the people into believing that all those who are opposed to the Nuclear Deal are opposed to nuclear power. It is a crude, simplistic and mischievous propaganda: ?We want to light up every home with nuclear power. We want to bring electricity to every farm and factory with nuclear power. But the opponents of our Government are coming in the way.?
I wish the people in the Government had not resorted to such untruths. The Government claims that the Nuclear Deal guarantees energy security for India. Americans, however, have left no one in doubt, as I have just said, that the deal is about putting a cap on, and then rolling back, India'sstrategic programme.
In recent days, I have had discussions with several experts in the nuclear energy sector, including those who are working in the Government. They tell me that, even in the most optimistic scenario, the share of nuclear power in the overall power generation in India is not likely to go up from the present three per cent to beyond six-eight per cent even after 25 years. The additionality due to the Nuclear Deal, though useful, will not be of the magnitude that could eliminate the acute power scarcity in the country. If this is so, why is the Congress party not presenting true facts before the people?
Indeed, the arbitrary projection of nuclear power defies the UPA Government'sown unenviable track record in the overall power sector. Its Common Minimum Programme (CMP) had set an ambitious objective of ?Electricity for all within five years?. It meant covering all 7.8 crore unelectrified households and all the 230,000 unelectrified villages in India'ssix lakh villages. The much-advertised Bharat Nirman Programme set a far lower objective: to electrify 100,000 villages and the 2.4 crore below poverty line (BPL) households without electricity by the end of March 2009.
Mr. Prime Minister, what has been the success rate of your Government in this regard? As of July 1, 2008, only 30,450 village Panchayats had confirmed electrification against a Government claim of 49,272. This yields a success rate of just over 30 per cent on the lower Bharat Nirman targets. Furthermore, in terms of BPL households, only 27 lakh BPL households out of the original target of 2.4 crore households had been electrified, thereby implying a success rate of only 11 per cent. This sums up the UPA Government'sshoddy record in attempting to provide bijlee to the AAM ADMI.
Given this track record of non-performance, the upa government is attempting to sell the nuclear deal as a bijlee deal for the same aam aadmi!
This trust vote is not about the Nuclear Deal alone
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me point out that this Trust Vote is not about the Nuclear Deal alone. Indeed, no Trust Vote is only about a single issue. It is always about the totality of the Government'sperformance.
Hence, today this House should give its verdict on the UPA Government'soverall performance in the last four years. It should be obvious to any unbiased observer that, on the yardstick of performance, this Government has no right to continue even for a single day.
The Congress sought votes in the last election in the name of the Aam Aadmi. What has the UPA Government done for the Aam Aadmi in the last four years? It has made life immensely more difficult for crores of ordinary citizens in this country due to its failure to control skyrocketing prices of all essential commodities and services. The rate of inflation has almost touched 12 per cent. Most economists feel that even this figure does not reflect the true state of the economy, and that the real inflation is much higher.
In any case, for the aam aadmi, it is not the official figure of inflation that matters. He knows that his family is able to buy less for more money, and that the hole in his family'smeager budget is getting bigger by the month. Everything has become costlier?food items, transportation, education, healthcare. Not only are the poor getting poorer due to price rise, but even the middle classes are becoming impoverished.
Speaking about the issue of price rise, let me tell you that the common people are wondering why our Prime Minister has no time to fix this problem, and why he is fixated by only one issue: Nuclear Deal?
Mr. Speaker Sir, not only have prices risen, but also interest rates. An ordinary middle-class family that took a housing loan today has to pay double the monthly instalment that it needed to pay in the last year of the NDA Government.
Utter neglect of Bijlee, Sadak, Paani issues
In the last Budget, the Finance Minister announced a loan waiver for farmers amidst a lot of fanfare. That he did not care to make adequate provision for it in the Budget is another matter. Mr. Prime Minister, four and a half months have passed since that announcement. Could you tell us how many farmers have benefited from the loan waiver? I had recently gone to Vidarbha to address a large farmers? rally and I can tell the House that I heard a lot of complaints both from the targeted beneficiaries and the even larger category of non-beneficiaries.
Farmers across the country are unhappy because they have not got MSP for paddy and other crops that is commensurate with the rise in prices of all farm inputs.
The agricultural sector, which provides a livelihood to 600 million Indians, has been facing a structural demise ? growth decelerated from an annual average of 4.7 per cent per year during the 1980s to 3.1 per cent during the 1990s and further to 2.2 per cent in the 2000s. How can we ever eliminate rural poverty without reversing this trend?
According to several studies, 60 years after Independence nearly 50 per cent of rural households still rely on money lenders. Why?
My question to the Government is: Have you tried to address the crisis in agriculture in a comprehensive manner? In such an effective way that India will never again seen the shocking spectacle of distressed farmers committing suicide in large numbers?
Will the Prime Minister tell the House how many additional acreage of farm land has been brought under irrigation in the last four years on account of his Government'sprogrammes? The performance in providing paani is as dismal and unflattering as in the case of bijlee, which I just referred to.
Take the case of sadak. The ambitious National Highways Development Project inaugurated by the Vajpayee Government is now progressing at a snail'sspeed on many critical stretches. The targets in the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana are not fulfilled.
The Government talks about eight per cent or nine per cent GDP growth. To the common people, this has little meaning. With approximately 100 million young Indians projected to enter the labour force over the next decade, where will they get employment if our growth pattern neglects agriculture, small and medium industries, informal sector?
In a recent speech, I said that the common people will respond favourably to all this talk of faster GDP growth only if G stands for Good Governance, D stands for Development of all, and P stands for Protection or security for all.
The kind of skewed growth that the UPA Government is promoting is evident from the fact that no less a person than the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Shri Bimal Jalan, has said that the earnings of 20 richest Indians is more than those of 30 crore poorest Indians.
In other words, 20 Kubers are wealthier than the combined wealth of 30 crore Sudamas.
This, Mr. Prime Minister, is unacceptable. It is unsustainable.
National Security imperiled for vote-bank considerations
Mr. Speaker Sir, I had said that this debate is about the totality of the performance of the UPA Government. The first duty of any Government is national security ? both in its external and internal dimensions.
What can one say about the UPA Government'sfailures on the internal security front? It is not just that the Government lacks the ability to fight terrorism and naxalism, but it also lacks the willingness. There is no focus, no clarity, no resolve, and no plan.
The past four years have seen a long and bloody trail of terrorist acts ? serial blasts in Mumbai, serial blasts in Malegaon, serial blasts in Hyderabad, serial blasts in Jaipur. There were also terrorist attacks in Ayodhya, Varanasi, Jammu, Bangalore. There was a terrorist strike on Samjhauta Express. There were numerous incidents of extremist violence in Assam, in which Hindi-speaking persons were targeted. In Kashmir, ten jawans were killed in a landmine explosion only a few days ago.
This House has a right to know how many cases of terrorist violence have been investigated fully, how many have been brought to the level of trial, how many convictions have been achieved, and how many ISI modules have been destroyed, and how many sleeper cells have been busted. The answer would shame those in responsible positions in the Government. I know I am using a strong word, but I am constrained to tell the truth.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I am sorry to say that the UPA Government lacks the will to fight terrorism because of vote-bank considerations. I have said it many times from many platforms that terrorism must not be identified with any religion or religious community. It would be wrong to do so. But isn'tit also wrong to weaken the Government'sfight against terrorism in the mistaken notion that it might alienate a certain community?
Isn'tit also wrong to turn a blind eye to the massive influx of infiltrators from Bangladesh because to do so might cost votes of a particular community? The UPA Government'srefusal to repeal the IMDT Act forced the Supreme Court to annul it as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court went a step further and asked the Government to take concrete steps to check what it called ?external aggression? in Assam and neighbouring states. What was the UPA Government'sresponse? It tried to bring in the same IMDT Act through the backdoor. This stratagem was also struck down by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Speaker Sir, does a Government that so willfully acts against the national interest have a right to continue? NO!
My party is not against minorities, although it is, and will continue to remain, totally and uncompromisingly opposed to the politics of minorityism which the UPA Government has practiced.
Anti-Hindu secularism will not be tolerated
When I look back at the last four years, I find another disturbing feature of the UPA Government'sperformance. It seems to believe that, to be secular is to be against the majority community. It is as if the sentiments and aspirations of the majority community do not matter.
Let me give two examples. A large number of Hindu organizations from all over the country have demanded the scrapping of the Sethu Samudram project in Tamil Nadu, since Ram Sethu is believed to have been constructed when Lord Ram marched to Lanka with his ?vaanar sena?. What was the Government'sresponse to this demand? The affidavit that the Government filed before the Supreme Court contended that there was no evidence to prove the existence of Ram or other characters in the Ramayana.
It took a huge uproar in society, and the imminent certainty of a nationwide agitation, that forced the Government to withdraw the affidavit. Nevertheless, the affidavit revealed the mindset of the Government. Many Hindus wondered if the UPA Government would have asked a similar question if the religious sentiments of any minority community were involved.
The country saw yet another manifestation of the anti-Hindu brand of secularism when the decision of the Jammu & Kashmir Government to allot 39.88 hectares of land for erecting temporary structures for the provision of basic amenities to pilgrims going on the Amarnath Yatra set off well-orchestrated violent protests in the Kashmir Valley recently. Mr. Speaker Sir, what we witnessed during the fortnight-long protests was alarming.
All kinds of falsehoods about the motives behind the decision were allowed to be propagated. It was said that the decision was part of a conspiracy to change the demographic composition of Kashmir. Ultimately, the Government, which was a Congress-PDP coalition, surrendered meekly before the protesters and the decision was reversed.
Honourable Members, consider the meaning of what happened in Jammu & Kashmir. The Amarnath Cave is one of the holiest shrines for Hindus. I had gone to Amarnath soon after the Yatra started this year. The period of the Yatra is only for two months. Therefore, the amenities can only be of temporary nature. Anybody who has been on this pilgrimage knows that it is an arduous one. Aren'tpilgrims, who come from all over the country, entitled to even basic facilities en route to the shrine?
And yet, even this innocuous decision ? which, incidentally, was recommended by a PDP minister and accepted by the State Cabinet ? was sought to be projected as a conspiracy by Hindu India against Muslim Kashmir. It is now well known that the ISI and other foreign powers were behind the protests and the propaganda.
My question to the Prime Minister and to the Congress President is this: Why did you choose to remain silent? Why did you choose to remain passive? Is insensitivity towards the needs and sentiments of Hindus your definition of secularism?
This is not secularism, friends, this is pseudo-secularism.
I want to warn the Government that such insensitivity will have a backlash effect.
I firmly believe that pilgrimage centres of all communities should be well looked after. People go to Ajmer Sherif in large numbers. The BJP Government in Rajasthan does not discriminate against them. They too deserve better facilities; indeed, better facilities, such as the ones that exist in Tirupati, are needed at all places of pilgrimage. There is a separate terminal for Haj yatris at some of our airports. The Vajpayee Government was commended by all Hajis for not only increasing the quota of pilgrims from India, but also ensuring improved facilities for them in Saudi Arabia.
I therefore appeal to Members of Parliament belonging to all parties to raise your voice against injustice, wherever it might take place. Let us not have double standards guided by vote-bank considerations. Let this House unanimously convey its view that the land meant for amenities for Amarnath Yatris be restored, and that the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Yatra be handed back to the Shrine Board.
Institutions misused for political ends
The inquest of the UPA Government will not be complete if I do not draw the attention of this House to the sustained and systematic misuse of democratic institutions to serve questionable personal and politics. All of us know how the Law Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the CBI worked together to let Ottavio Quattrocchi go scot-free, even after he was arrested in Argentina. Earlier, the Government went out its way to let this fugitive take away Rs. 20 crore from a foreign bank. I want the Prime Minister to tell the Nation why he allowed this molestation of institutions to take place? At whose behest?
Most recently, we have seen how, after the Government was reduced to a minority, the CBI has been misused to either protect somebody or harass somebody.
Horse-trading of the worst kind to save the Government
Mr. Speaker Sir, my speech has covered a wide range of issues, which was inevitable. There are many more issues which my colleagues in the BJP and NDA will cover. I am sure that our friends from the BSP, Left, and other parties ranged against the Government will also fire their shots. Hence, this debate will see the Government hiding for cover.
The Government knows that it cannot survive on the yardstick of its performance. How then is it trying to survive? By indulging in horse-trading and deal-making of a kind that is beyond imagination. By employing means that have not only brought disgrace to the Congress party and the Government, but also besmirched the prestige of India'sdemocracy. Never before in the past sixty years has politics in New Delhi been so polluted.
The Prime Minister says he wants to usher in nuclear renaissance. But what a shameful paradox it is that a Government which claims that it wants to inaugurate an era of Nuclear Power is trying to save itself by taking the help of Horse Power!
What the people know is that ? and this is what the media have been talking about all the time ? in trying to push the Nuclear Deal, the hands of the leadership of the Government and the Congress party are sullied by dozens of corrupt deals.
In the process, the leadership of the Government and the Congress party has made Parliament and parliamentarians a laughing stock in the eyes of the people. It is my charge that the Prime Minister and the Congress president are principally guilty of having created this murky situation, which has ominous implications for democracy in the future.
What kind of legacy is this kind of unscrupulous politics leaving behind for the future generations? What kind of democratic institutions are we bequeathing to our youth, who want to see India emerge as a Developed Nation soon?
I am saying this with a lot of pain because of I have been a witness to the evolution of Indian democracy right since the First General Elections in 1952. Today our democracy has hit the lowest point in terms of the brazen use of money power and misuse of institutions.
My pain is all the more when I see a member belonging to my own party crossing over, because of the allurements shown to him.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have never won an election to be a member of this House, and therefore you do not have to face the electorate and answer their questions.