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Here is what happened when Congress moved no-confidence motion against Vajpayee-led govt in 2003

The Congress, with the help of other Opposition parties, decided to bring a no-confidence motion against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government in August 2003.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2018 16:58 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
No-confidence motion,YSR COngress,Telugu Desam Party
Inside the Parliament on August 18, 2003. (Arvind Yadav/HT Archive)

With the Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress Party filing a no-confidence motion, HT looks back at the last no-confidence motion moved in Parliament — in 2003.


The Congress, with the help of other Opposition parties, decided to bring a no-confidence motion against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government in August 2003, following the re-induction of defence minister George Fernandes in the Union Cabinet. While the numbers were heavily stacked in Vajpayee’s favour, the Opposition leaders saw in a motion an opportunity to raise several charges against the National Democratic Alliance government.

What happened

The Vajpayee government, which went on to become the first non-Congress regime to complete its full term, comfortably defeated the Opposition in the vote that followed the no-confidence motion.

The NDA secured 312 votes while the Opposition mopped up 186 votes. J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK (Tamil Nadu) and Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference (Jammu and Kashmir) abstained from voting, while the Bahujan Samaj Party of Mayawati voted in favour of the government.

In 2018, the no-confidence motion moved by YRSCP against the Narendra Modi-led government could not be taken due to disruptions. But during the Vajpayee regime, the House managed to take up the motion. The then leader of the Opposition, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, initiated the debate. She spoke in Hindi and charged the Vajpayee government for faltering on several fronts. Senior leaders like George Fernandes, LK Advani, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, Mani Shankar Aiyar and others participated in the debate. Even as many Opposition leaders attacked Fernandes, Vajpayee defended him and went on to call describe the best defence minister India ever had.

Gandhi also accused the Vajpayee government of undermining India’s non-aligned position in world affairs, a charge denied by Vajpayee. The debate went on till late at night and Vajpayee stood up to reply only at 11pm. In his famous reply, he taunted Gandhi and said as if the Congress president has overused a thesaurus to pick words. “Come to the maidaan (field) for an electoral bout,” Vajpayee told Gandhi.


The challenge to the Congress was for the assembly elections in four states — Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — that was due later in 2003, and the general elections the following year.

While the Congress would go on to win Delhi elections, the BJP’s victory in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan would propel it to advance the general elections by a few months — and pave way for the NDA’s loss.

The 2004 victory would become the first by the United Progressive Alliance, led by the Congress.

The UPA would form the government again in 2009 — but not before the Manmohan Singh-led regime would face its first no-confidence motion in July 2008, after the CPI(M)-led Left Front withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Although the UPA scraped through (by a margin of UPA’s 275 votes to the Opposition’s 256), and also returned to power for another five-year term the following year, it would eventually lose power to the second NDA government — this time led by the BJP’s Narendra Modi.

It may be seen as a sheer coincidence that Modi, too, now faces a no-confidence motion in the fourth year of his government. The Opposition, unable to take up the motion since the House was not in order, is likely to push for a confidence vote on Monday.

(Looking back will take a contemporary news development and bring to readers a related slice from history)

First Published: Mar 18, 2018 07:47 IST