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Stage set for 2019 election as Modi govt wins no-confidence test in Parliament on day of hug, wink, debate

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on the Congress on Friday evening before winning the no-confidence vote with nearly three-fourths of a majority after a day-long debate in Parliament.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2018 08:26 IST
Prashant Jha
Prashant Jha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
PM Modi wins vote on no-confidence motion,Modi wins no-confidence vote,NDA majority
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks in the Lok Sabha during the no-confidence motion in Parliament, in New Delhi on Friday.(PTI)

The NDA government cruised to an over a two-thirds (at 72%, close to three-fourths) majority in the house, decisively defeating a no-confidence motion, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the stage for the 2019 elections.

Modi strongly defended his government’s record on welfare and economy; launched a blistering critique of Congress’ politics and its treatment of ‘grassroots leaders’, sharply rebutted an earlier speech by Congress president Rahul Gandhi; reiterated his commitment to the development of Andhra Pradesh; and challenged the opposition to bring a no-confidence motion in 2024.

Modi’s speech, late on Friday night, came after a day of intense debate in the house. While the Telugu Desam Party had filed a no-confidence motion against the government, a range of opposition parties, used the opportunity to target the National Democratic Alliance on its record — as NDA allies and leaders defended it.

Gandhi’s speech earlier in the day captured attention with its aggressive tone and, of course, the climax, when he hugged the Prime Minister.

But the numbers told their own story: the government secured 325 votes of 451 members present and voting in the house, beating its own target of a two-thirds win.

The Prime Minister’s political attack was primarily reserved for the Congress.

Playing on the word trust, Modi spoke of how Congress had little faith in itself.

“They don’t have faith in the Chief Justice, Reserve Bank of India, institutions which provide economic indicators, in the power of the Indian passport, in the Election Commission, EVMs. And that is because they don’t have faith in themselves. This is because some people have a strong sense of entitlement and have lost out.”

The Prime Minister also took on Gandhi, who had, in the course of his speech said that Modi did not look him in the eye, and used it as a peg to attack Congress’ treatment of its own leaders and allies.

“It was said the PM cannot look me in the eye. Who are we? Who can look you in the eye? I am from a poor background, from a backward caste, from a village... history is witness. When Sardar Patel looked in the eye, when Subash Bose looked in the eye, when Morarji Desai did it, when JP Narayan, Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, Pranab Mukherjee or even Sharad Pawar looked in the eye, see what happened.”

The names were a reference to those who the BJP believes have directly taken on the Nehru-Gandhi family, and suffered for it.

Modi also targeted the coalition-in-the-making to take him on in 2019, pointing out that the Congress has a track record of betraying allies, as it had done in 1979, 1991, and 1997 leading to short-lived governments and creating instability.

Modi then spoke of the hug that Gandhi gave him earlier in the day.

The Congress leader had urged him to stand up at the time. “Those who are desperate to come here came and said, get up, get up. No one can make you sit here or get up. Only the 125 crore people of India can do it.”

Rebutting Gandhi’s allegations of wrongdoing in the Rafale deal, Modi said, “I can’t imagine truth being twisted like this on issues related to National security. On a statement made here, two governments had to issue a condemnation. I want to assure the country that the deal is between two governments, and is fully transparent.”

A second key theme of the PM’s speech was the government’s policy record, coupled with questions on the track record of past governments.

“Electricity reached 18,000 villages...32 crore bank accounts were opened...4.5 crore women got a new way of living with LPG cylinders… we constructed eight crore toilets for women... Ayushman Bharat will give an assurance of ? 5 lakh for medical care... we will double farmer incomes by 2022.”

Modi also spoke of how with the use of technology, the government had saved 90,000 crores which would have otherwise got misappropriated. He highlighted improvements in the ease of doing business rankings, the innovation index, and the competitiveness index, and defended his record on job creation through multiple sectors.

The PM provided a detailed policy explanation on the banking crisis, explicitly blaming the UPA government’s actions between 2008 and 2014 of arbitrarily giving loans and ‘looting banks. He claimed that his government had recognised, and addressed the problem but called it a ‘landmine’.

On the issue that led to the no-confidence vote, Modi once again accused the Congress of mismanaging the division of Andhra Pradesh. He alleged that Chandrababu Naidu had, due to competitive politics with YSR CP, withdrawn from the NDA government despite having accepted a special assistance plan, and claimed that the 14th Finance Commission did not allow the Centre to give the special category status that was being demanded. “But our commitment to the development and hopes and aspirations of Andhra stays.”

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi termed the PM’s speech an ‘old, broken record’.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 08:01 IST