What a pyrrhic win it was. It lasted only a day. When the voting for the confidence motion in the Lok Sabha started on July 22 evening Dr Manmohan Singh'sgovernment was in minority. Twenty four hours after he convincingly won the confidence motion he was again in minority. By that time the thick-skinned turncoats were identified and expelled from their respective parties which naturally will result in their disqualification.
So Manmohan Singh if he again has to face the test of numbers will have to go for another round of shopping and deal making, of course with a new set of market forces. It takes only a few hundred millions, corporate backing and dalal street demeanor, to hoodwink democracy, the UPA has proved.
Votes he won, trust he lost, screamed headlines. Never in India'spolitical history was such a sordid drama played out in full public gaze. It shamed the nation. It created doubts and revulsion in millions of minds. Political commentators described it the saddest day for Indian Parliament. But Dr Manmohan Singh waved the V-sign and claimed that he emerged a full-fledged political actor and leader who asserted his conviction. For long the media painted him clean, honest, apolitical technocrat. Not hankering after power, a Prime Minister by accident and politician by circumstances, a willing but dignified tool of Sonia Gandhi. If that was the case he would not have condoned what his party did to manufacture a majority. Nor would he have allowed his office to become a bargain counter.
As the motion was put to vote the Congress had the support of only 260 members in the 543-member house including known defectors from other parties, some of whom eligible for disqualification under the anti-defection law. When the votes were counted it managed 275 against 256 of the opposition with ten abstentions. The nine BJP MPs, one each from Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, JD (U) and BJD supported the motion and all of them will get disqualified. The two MDMK, two TDP and one JD(S) members, though defied the whip, might survive because of the limited strength of their respective parties. It is surprising that the Congress and the Samajwadi Party have not taken action against their six rebels who voted with the opposition. Perhaps these parties have not given up on them, and are hopeful of managing them to the ruling side for another trial of strength, if and when it becomes necessary.
How did the image-conscious Prime Minister manage 24 members from different parties to change their loyalty? His admirers will claim that it was not he but the dirty work was carried out by Sonia Gandhi, Amar Singh and Ahmad Patel. How many will believe this claim? The corporate compromises and cabinet berths are offered only at the top level. We all witnessed how JMM leader Shibu Soren after a meeting with the PM, revealed that he will support the government after he was assured of cabinet berth with coal ministry, another post of MoS and deputy chief minister post in Jharkhand for his son.
The CBI reports directly to the PMO. The BSP members told the Lok Sabha that they were being intimidated, cajoled and coaxed by a CBI official to support or abstain from voting. The matter is being investigated by the Speaker. The members told the Lok Sabha that they have no faith in the government or the Home Minister to investigate their allegations.
It is the murkiness of market that he has brought into the hallowed portals of democracy. Not once but twice complaints were made by harassed members of Parliament, first from the BSP bloc and then from the main opposition party, the BJP that the cronies of the ruling coalition were intimidating them. The brazen politicisation of the CBI, which for long enjoyed a reputation for fair play came to such a pass that the BSP members told a stunned Lok Sabha that the CBI sleuths threatened them that if they voted against the Manmohan motion, the BSP leader Mayawati will face revenge. That the agency was on the job for the last one month since the UP chief minister withdrew support to the UPA was clear from the sudden surfacing of an old case concerning disproportionate assets against Mayawati which had in the early days of Congress-BSP honeymoon got buried. Then, Mulayam Singh was at the receiving end. His worries stopped the day he made up with the Congress. One Shiv Sena member was sneaked away to prevent him from voting. The BJP suffered too. The government could have been easily voted out if all the NDA members had obeyed their party whip.
There BJP members came to the house a few hours before voting with stacks of bundled thousand rupee notes offered to them by the ruling party minions to shift loyalty. They placed on the table of the house the offered booty for the entire nation to see. Again the matter is under investigation. The BJP leader L.K. Advani described the incident more scandalous than Bofors and threatened to take the issue to the people. The Prime Minister had the previous day, confronted by allegations of horse trading, pooh-poohed the matter and demanded proof. Here was proof. The Congress response, however was, that it was all stage managed. If there was no attempt on the part of the ruling side to purchase loyalty why did it go about claiming majority when it was clear as daylight that the UPA lost majority the day the Left withdrew support? The combined strength of the Samajwadi Party and other smaller groups and independents made up only for 251 seats. Normally governments when reduced to minority either resign or try to cobble up new allies or engineer split in other parties, not to invite the anti-defection law. It is most disingenious of the UPA to have thought of just surviving the day of voting by acquired temporary immunity.
This is unprecedented and there is nothing in the Indo-US deal that warranted such daylight murder of democracy. Limpet like, to recall Rajiv Gandhi'sfamous words, the UPA can hang on and postpone facing the electorate for a hundred more days. Was the duplicitous villainy worth it? No other Prime Minister has stooped so low. India has a tradition of Prime Ministers demitting office on the first whiff of distrust. Morarji Desai, Ch. Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandrasekhar, Deve Gowda, I.K. Gujral and Atal Behari Vajpayee have set this precedent. But here is one who is not even a member of the Lok Sabha?again unprecedented?who thinks establishing majority is a determinant of market forces. Has it got something to do with globalisation? Perhaps voters do not matter.
What a shame, that we are all shamed but he has no such feelings. He is rather proud and grateful to his mentor for delivering him this day and he thanked his friends who made it possible. What a fall.
The defence from the ruling side in the two-day debate was lacklustre and indifferent. The PM'sspeech failed to address specific concerns expressed by the opposition especially Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani on the Nuclear Deal. The PM ignored the allegation that he reduced Parliament to a bazar. Dr Singh proved that he is a small minded, scornful, vindictive person and he resorted to deplorable levels in personally targeting the Leader of Opposition and the CPM leadership.
Pranab Mukherjee who meandered through the benefits of the deal with unconvincing data failed to impress. But he tried to score browny points by picking holes in Advani'sbrilliant speech. He said how could Jawaharlal Nehru have thought of NPT, since he was not alive when it came into being in the 1970s? He was replying to Advani'scharge that even Nehru and Indira Gandhi had not thought of accepting NPT, though Nehru especially was against raising a huge military. The fact is, the NPT was first initiated by Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken in 1958 and text was opened for signing by sovereign states in 1968. It took 10 years to finalise the text. Nehru died in 1964. Hence Nehru was alive for six years when NPT was being debated at various levels. Again Advani is right when he contended that Nehru was disinclined to NPT. Congress obviously has no patience for details.
There is nothing for the UPA to crow about this bogus vote. What a way to win a trust vote? It needs tremendous insensitivity to democratic values for a government to survive this way.