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A look back at the 2008 floor test when UPA faced no-confidence

The trust vote in 2008, a year before the UPA faced Lok Sabha elections, was one of the most dramatic in Parliament’s history.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2018 08:54 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
no confidence motion,Floor test,UPA
In 2008, PM Manmohan Singh opted for a floor test to prove his government still commanded majority.(HT File Photo)

The nation’s attention was riveted on the Lok Sabha on Friday as it debated the first no-confidence motion in 15 years which the National Democratic Alliance government easily defeated. HT looks back at a special session in 2008, when the United Progressive Alliance(UPA) government opted for a floor test after the four Left parties withdrew their support to the coalition over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Context

The trust vote in 2008, a year before the UPA faced Lok Sabha elections, was one of the most dramatic in Parliament’s history. After almost a year of intense negotiations with Left parties, the UPA was able to convince Prakash Karat, then general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), that it could go ahead with a safeguards agreement on civilian nuclear installations with the International Atomic Energy Agency . The agreement was an enabler for the India-US nuclear agreement. When the government announced plans to meet the Nuclear Suppliers Group , the Left, with 60 MPs, withdrew support to the government. PM Manmohan Singh opted for a floor test to prove his government still commanded majority.The UPA, in a mood to take a high moral ground, wanted to take the mandate of the House for the deal. It wanted to send a message to the international community that the Parliament has given UPA the go ahead for the deal. The trust vote also became one of those rare moments when the Left and the BJP came on the same platform.

What happened

The Congress-led UPA government went for a special session—only for the floor test—before knocking on the doors of the NSG. With no support from the Left, UPA managers fell back on Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party to win the test. Yadav said former President APJ Abdul Kalam had told him that the Indo-US nuclear deal was good for the country and so he will support the UPA. Meanwhile, a furious CPI (M) asked speaker Somnath Chatterjee to step down and vote against the government. Chatterjee refused and he was expelled a day after the trust vote. The debate on the trust vote was widely considered one of the best in parliamentary history. The Bharatiya Janata Party, otherwise a strong supporter of Indo-US ties, decided to vote against the government and took the plea that if voted to power, it will negotiate a better deal. After two days of debate, the UPA government won the motion with 275 votes while 256 MPs voted against it.

Significance

It was the first trust vote of the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh and it won it with the help of allies. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government went on to sign the nuclear deal with the US, opening a new, historic chapter in India’s civilian nuclear power programme.

Apart from paving the way for a major diplomatic victory in energy security, the trust vote also had immense political significance.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) went on to win the next general elections with an improved tally. The Left parties snapped ties with the Congress.

The decline of the Left started thereafter. Manmohan Singh went on to become the only Prime Minister till date from outside the Nehru-Gandhi family who completed two consecutive terms in office.

The political situation that followed the trust vote was the one, where, possibly the first time foreign policy issues became one of the major poll planks.

For the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the Indo-US nuclear deal transformed India’s recognition as a major civilian nuclear power and the only one without signing the highly lopsided non proliferation agreements.

First Published: Jul 22, 2018 08:11 IST