They came from everywhere; wheelchairs and stretchers – jail. And the anticipation of drama delivered! From the moment a crore of rupees was placed in the House by three BJP MPs – everything changed. Read on to see how the BJP's staged drama did not hold a trust vote down.
Any spellings, typos, etc, I’ll do tmr – I’m exhausted from typing and need a drink.
To be sure, the day did not start like this. My alma mater, I was a little surprised to read in the morning, lauded the first day of the debate – “the country was given snapshots of major political formations’ thinking on a complex and crucial issue. Hosting debates of such depth, apart from passing laws, is really what Parliament is about,” it felt. But the contrast between a real conversation about where this country is heading and name-calling just served to remind people like me that some people, unfortunately, just don’t care.
But Chidabaram, Gandhi and Lalu, all gave entertaining and fiery speeches.
“The BSP and SP, so far outside of the two coalitions, have not so much ditched partners as much as tried to find space in national politics,” the Express editorial had read. I wasn’t so sure I agreed with that, but what do I know?
But I’ll say this, despite what anyone says, it did turn out to be a vibrant debate in the end! Not deep, just dynamic.
The prime minister was to speak soon.
More than one crore rupees has been placed in the House – is it orchestrated drama? It is a “blot in the history of Indian democracy”, says Barkha Dutt, asking if “ a vote can be taken at all”. Its 4.16pm. The Speaker is obliged to refer this to a committee. But last night, as Barkha said, the PM had challenged MPs to prove they were offered money. This could be why this is happening.
But the Speaker’s hands are tied and cannot allow a vote now, can he?
Lok Sabha adjourned till 5pm.
Historic moment of shame, they said. Honestly, I didn’t feel shame as much as irritation. You were offered money? You refused. Then shut up and vote. Buying, bribing, bartering MPs is not new. That they are waving this money around means that they are not voting/abstaining under pressure.
Then came news of proof. S.C Mishra, BSP, came on TV so say that the PM should resign.
Speaker spoke. All three leaders have been asked to submit their complaints. BJP, again, made demands. Let people air their grievances in parliament, the PM should resign.
Back to the studio. Vinod Mehta echoed my thoughts, that people of this country will not be very shocked. They may be enjoying the stunt? I wonder. Shekhar Gupta said this is how cynicism builds up – all politics is run like this. Mehta said cynicism cannot increase in this country!
Mayawati on TV: Wants PM to resign, if this is how he has behaved to save his government. Standard statement.
Vote or walk-out? Shekhar Gupta says but a walk out is also a vote. Also that Mayawati had people join her “not because of some long lost love for Dr Ambedkar”.
A “cattle market out there” pointed out Vinod Mehta but made a good point – “it has been a cattle market since the day the trust vote was announced”.
Danger of homemade stings is, Shekhar Gupta pointed out, “Even when a good thing happens, it gets lost”. He said we need a deterrent, even if one person went to jail, it may go a long way. And if something like this happened? Should the PM resign? No, they said, but “someone should go to jail” says Shekhar Gupta with a side story. A BSP MLA was sent to jail. His widow has now been elected from a BSP ticket. And the man who murdered him, is now out from jail, to vote right now, on a BSP ticket!
Jaswant Singh was on the phone, he sounded so lazy, like he was sitting at home having a whisky and cigar, I couldn’t help smiling. But he said the BJP is fine with a vote in an “extraordinary situation”.
IBN had some leads on the bribing story, and had in its possession some tapes of bribes. So it decided to hand them over to the Speaker, because they had concerns over Parliamentary Privledge.
6.30pm, the Parliament was back on. The Speaker was again interrupted by disrupted elements. Mr Owasi was allowed to speak. He said the BJP had guided the Left in this drama, and he supports the government on matters of social welfare. He believed the Left front “for no reason whatsoever” withdrew support. He went on to ask why people are claiming Muslims are against the deal – why has no one pointed out what Hindus stand for, Dalits etc. It is for the PM to decide foreign policy, and said the Left front hates minorities. If Advani becomes PM, it is the Muslims who will suffer.
Mehbooba Mufti got up, and said after listening to the debate, that the BJP is only opposing the deal because it wants to take credit for it. Screaming to be heard, she said they only want to renegotiate the deal.., she was drowned out by cries from ‘istifa do, idtifa do’.
Omar Abdullah got up said he did not know if the one crore is true, but it is the reason smaller parties are being disrupted. He does not see a distinction between being a Muslim and being Indian, and he sees no reason to be afraid. The enemies of Indian Muslims are “the same enemies the poor people of India face” – poverty, hunger and so on. Not a member of the UPA, but he, being unhappy with the Left for becoming certifiers of who is secular and who is not. When he was with the NDA, he says the Left thought he was an outsider, but now they claim he is secular. He did not resign over Gujarat and his conscience has not forgiven him – he would not make that mistake again. To catcalls of the Amarnath Yatra, he said the fight was for land, but the Kashmiris has not turned away pilgrims. “Hum aapke jaise communal nahi hain!”
Very powerful and well spoken, I felt a chill, and I won’t lie – I welled up a bit!
The next speech was given by man – Virendra Kumar (JD)S -- who wanted clarification on certain things the PM had said on the Hyde Act. (I want to point out that all these speeches were made with the BJP shouting slogans in the background). He desperately ran through a page or two of the speech of the PM (as far as I could make out). He laid his objections on the table.
Next up was a speech to support the government, for the poor by Briswamuthiary, an independent MP. “We are indigenous people and have numerous programmes in our villages,” and in Assam, he wanted some tribes on the SC list, one area to be made another district (?), more funds for the Bodo people. His demands were very basic – schools, money – probably not the best time to discuss this, but he’d probably never had a full house with the nation watching before.
The Speaker insisted that the North Easterners speak – Mani Charimeiner from outer Manipur – said he would support the government as he has been promised that the Common Minimum Program would be re-examined. It is an under developed area, full of problems, but he said he has decided to “share the problems of the nations” and support the nuclear deal. He also wanted the desire and aspirations of the Naga people to be fulfilled.
Yerranaidu, TDP, very angry, bright yellow kurta. He opposed the motion not just on the basis of the deal but other failures. The PM’s office became a hotbed for political deals in the name of energy security, and the sovereignty of the country is being given to the Bush administration. “The Bush is going,” so he asked what is the hurry? China took ten years to finalize the 123 agreement, he said, and there is no unanimity among political parties, no majority, and since this issue is not of the Congress but the country, and he could not support the motion. He asked the PM few questions. One seemed silly, even the Speaker chuckled, the other (as my mother said) was not true.
Next a woman –Ranjeet Ranjan (LJSP), asked for respect of the House (which she actually got). She praised the PM for his honesty and said that she was prepared to come here to denounce the deal, but after seeing the events of the day, she is disgusted. She was clearly impressed by Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah’s passion. She said, fiery and passionate, some people point a figure at others while they have ACs, money and criminals with them, and that the opposition has shamed the country. Single handedly she was blowing up the BJP and Akalis (as her husband is from Punjab, she seemed to know Punjabi very well), and said Sikhs always sacrifice without asking for something in return, and it is the duty of the Akalis to support the government. Then she supported it herself.
The next got only two mins when he started – in support of the government – Murmu of JMM. The need that the country has for electricity, and how the government is going forward to meet that need – the deal is for the good of the country. He was satisfied with the explanations of the deal, and did not understand why the Left deserted the government after four years. He said the opposition keeps talking about the government giving money – well, who was ready to take it??
I was glad to see other MPs disgusted by the BJPs behavior in the House today, not just us couch potatoes.
The PM stood up and the BJP flocked, asking for resignation, not allowing him to speak. “Whatever decision there is, we will carry on…” I could barely hear through the loud chanting for his resignation. He handed in his speech after barely even a minute, so that the trust motion could take place.
7:21pm – He asked the House to ‘ay’ and ‘nay’, but everyone sounded equally as loud, so he asked for a division. Some demands came out saying ask the Rajya Sabha members to leave, but the Speaker asked those asking not to be frivolous. Votes were being collected physically in the House.
Lobbies were cleared at 7:26pm. The secretary-general was asked to stand up and make the announcement with screaming and shouting in the background. The Speaker himself is quite talkative and I thought spoilt a few moments of quiet.
But then it started. Buttons were there to be pressed. For those who didn't use them, slips were going to be provided, and they had to sign, write their names and ID numbers, area, and date. Abstention slips would be provided. A screen on the wall had a computerized number.
Confusion. Weren’t there more people who had to vote? Another 54 votes have to be counted yet; those are people using the slips instead. I don’t really understand why some people haven’t used the buttons, but all I know is that it could still swing another way. But the Congress is in a substantial lead, people starting congratulated the PM. Jayanti Natrajan explained that sometimes peoples buttons don’t work, or were not pressed properly, so right now the government still has to wait.
Barkha asked the question again – “Has the vote been overshadowed?” Swapan Dasgupta asked, the question is, “Will it be a tainted victory?” Will the deal seem compromised? Shekhar Gupta still thinks that if allegations are true, then one person needs to go to jail at least. Vinod Mehta was more concerned about smaller parties and their role now. And the question invariably turned to elections – should they have done it earlier, when should they do it now? More talk went on in all studios – Sagarika Ghosh making a really funny crack about how this might just be a good reason we need new technology (buttons not working)! The PM’s standing, the future of the Left… it was quite an interesting evening at the NDTV studios.
The government won the trust vote, and Vande Matram played, and we saw Parliament standing quietly for once. Sounds like 275 v/s 256, but no one seems sure. Ten absentations. Much wider than anyone expected, except, Prannoy Roy tells us Barkha was sure the Congress won have a clear win.
After the event, we find out about the best speech we never got to hear, that of the prime minister. I look forward to reading the text.
Singh is King.