Leader of the Opposition LK Advani on Saturday asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “immediately” seek a vote of confidence by calling a short session of parliament before going ahead with the India-US civilian nuclear deal.
Addressing a press conference along with Jaswant Singh, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Advani said: “As the UPA is now a minority, it has no right to execute any binding international agreements… The BJP demands that the government must immediately now call parliament into session and take it fully into confidence.”
If the government fails to seek a confidence vote, the BJP will ask President Pratibha Patil to direct the PM to do so, Advani added. Asked if the BJP would press for a trust vote, Advani said he expected the PM to take the initiative.
The Congress rejected Advani’s demand and described his remarks as “irresponsible”.
“No one has withdrawn support so where is the question of a trust vote? It is extremely unfortunate that the Leader of the Opposition has tried to create a spectre of instability when the prime minister is about to go abroad… There is no instability in the government and politics. If there is any instability it is in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition,” spokesman Manish Tiwari said. In his “desperation” to become PM, Advani was living in a world of “make believe”, Tiwari said.
Besides, it is up to the president to call the government to face a trust vote, he added.
At the press briefing, Advani and Singh said that the PM must explain, as indeed must the Congress, as to what reasons compel them to rush the country into this agreement? “This government has no right to continue in office now. Let the country decide afresh.”
Jaswant Singh even disagreed with former President APJ Abdul Kalam's support for the deal maintaining that Kalam has been “oversimplifying” the matter “involving complex issues”.
Advani, for his part, added that, “No government has ever been hustled into acting on an issue of vital national importance, at a pace dictated entirely by the interlocutors, in this instance the US. This Congress led arrangement can now no longer call itself either a United Progressive Alliance or even a government.”
But it made it clear that if the BJP is elected to power, it would renegotiate the deal to ensure that India maintain its strategic sovereignty and it becomes an agreement between equals.”
Criticising the Congress-SP bonhomie, Advani said “Unprincipled deals of convenience bring yesterday's adversaries as today's allies, Even the Congress’ replacement of Deve Gowda by I K Gujral as Prime Minister of UF government in 1997 reminded us of Lord Ganesh whose head was replaced by that of an elephant, what we are witnessing now is leg surgery. The Left’s support — on which the UPA stood so far — is being replaced by the SP’s backing.”
The Congress dismissed the charge of political opportunism. “The nuclear deal is an issue of national importance and getting energy and the support of any party for it is welcome,” Tiwari said.
The Indo-US deal will offer just 3 to 5 per cent of additional nuclear energy some 25 to 30 years from now at the cost of roughly $ 125 to 130 billion at today's price, according to Advani and Singh. “To trade the country's strategic autonomy for this is not acceptable,” they said.