India: No confidence motion against Modi government defeated

Wins overwhelming majority with the government getting 325 out of a total 451 votes

Indians watch television showing Congress party President Rahul Gandhi hug Prime Minister Narendra Modi during parliament session, at an electronics shop in Jammu, India, Friday, July 20, 2018.

New Delhi: After a 12-hour debate in the Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian Parliament) on Friday, the no-confidence motion against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was defeated as 325 lawmakers voted against it and 126 for it.

Before the vote, Modi attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi stating that the no-confidence motion against his government was not a test for him, but for the Congress and its new-found allies.

Reacting to Gandhi’s allegations of corruption in Rafale aircraft deal earlier in the day, Modi said: “I was surprised they raised the Rafale issue. Due to one careless allegation in the House on Rafale, both nations [France and India] had to release statements. Does this childish behaviour befit anybody?”

Targetting Gandhi’s mother Sonia Gandhi over her assertion on numerical strength of political parties supporting the no-confidence motion, Modi said he was reminded of 1999, when she had led other parties in challenging the then NDA government.

“She stood outside Rashtrapati Bhavan [President’s House] and said ‘we have 272 and more are joining us’. She destabilised Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government and never formed one herself,” Modi said.

Speaking for the motion earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi had raised questions over the Rafale deal. He alleged that the Indian government’s deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was massively overpriced.

“When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to France with some magic powers, the price per plane increased to Rs1,600 crore [Rs16 billion], much more than Rs520 crore [Rs5.2 billion] when the Congress was in power,” he said.

Gandhi also added that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had “spoken untruth” about the Rafale deal.

“Nirmala Sitharaman first said that she would reveal the price of each unit of Rafale jet fighter. But later on, she declined to share the details citing secrecy clause in the agreement with France. I met the President of France. I asked him about the secrecy clause and he denied that any such clause exists in the agreement. He told me so and I don’t have any objection if you tell this to everyone in the country. Under pressure from the PM, Nirmala Sitharaman told lie to the nation,” Gandhi stated.

Responding to Gandhi’s allegations against her, Sitharaman said a secrecy agreement with France was signed in 2008 and the Rafale deal was also covered in it.

She added that the French president told an Indian media outlet that price of the jets could not be revealed and that what he told Gandhi was not relevant.

However, after his scathing criticism of Modi, the Congress leader unexpectedly walked across to the prime minister and hugged him. A startled Modi quickly recovered his composure and patted Gandhi on the back and shook his hand.

Later, the BJP moved a privilege motion against Gandhi for his allegations against the prime minister.

The party also termed Gandhi’s hug an “immature” act and said his speech was “low on substance”.

“It was low on substance and high on entertainment value. Since yesterday, the country was observing Rahul and wanted to hear his speech,” BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

Later, the French government responded to Gandhi’s assertion that there was no secrecy pact for Rafale aircraft deal, saying that the 2008 agreement signed by the two nations legally bound protection of classified information.

“These provisions naturally apply to the Inter-Governmental Agreement [IGA] concluded on 23 September 2016 on the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft and their weapons,” France said in a statement.

This did not stop Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala from continuing to attack the BJP over the Rafale deal.

“Did the Congress government not disclose the price of INS Vikramaditya, Mirage aircraft, Sukhoi aircraft and Kaveri engine on the floor of the Parliament? What prevents the Modi government from disclosing the Rafale price then? Is the wrong doing not apparent,” he asked.

Meanwhile, after abstaining from the no-trust vote, BJP’s estranged ally Shiv Sena praised Gandhi’s speech in the Lok Sabha.

Party leader Sanjay Raut said Gandhi had now gone graduated from the real school of politics.

“This wasn’t a hug, but a shock to Modi. There would be more tremors like today for the BJP,” Raut told media outside parliament.

BJP had earlier claimed the support of Sena, which on Friday decided to stay away from the debate on chief Uddhav Thackeray’s orders.

Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) walked out, reducing the strength of the house and the majority mark.

Earlier in the day, Modi had called for a “constructive, comprehensive and disruption free” debate on what he said was an important day in India’s parliamentary democracy.

“India will be watching us closely,” he tweeted in the morning.


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