The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Huddle at Atal home on ‘shock’ no-trust

New Delhi, Aug. 14: Caught off guard by the Opposition’s bid to move a no-trust motion, the ruling coalition has asked all its MPs to attend a meeting at the Prime Minister’s home on Saturday.

The National Democratic Alliance is determined to evolve a coordinated strategy against the move and not leave each constituent to rustle up its MPs on its own.

Parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj herself will issue a collective whip to the MPs, asking them to be present during the two-day debate and vote.

The Opposition bid comes in the wake of allegations against the defence ministry over its refusal to show a Central Vigilance Commission report on defence purchases and of the Centre’s complicity.

NDA sources said a decision to invite outside allies, the Telugu Desam Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, was yet to be taken. They said the two parties would almost surely be called given the seriousness of the exercise.

Part of the seriousness comes from the Opposition’s sudden move, which would be the first no-confidence motion against the government in the 13th Lok Sabha.

“We had no idea, it was a surprise. I heard of it in the BAC (Business Advisory Committee) meeting this afternoon,” Swaraj said.

She, however, claimed: “We are hundred per cent confident of defeating the motion.”

Though BJP sources agreed with her, they also said that the live telecast of the proceedings would not be “entirely beneficial” to the coalition.

The Speaker had allowed the telecast on Lok Sabha Congress deputy leader Shivraj Patil’s request.

According to the sources, given the wide ambit of the discussion, everything from the Tehelka defence scam to Kargil coffins and the alleged cover-up of defence reports would be “milked dry” by the Opposition before the nation.

The Saturday meeting will decide who will speak for the NDA and whether defence minister George Fernandes, who is at the centre of the political storm, will be one of them.

Party sources, however, tried to be upbeat, recalling how a similar motion telecast live in 1996 helped the BJP though its 13-day-old government fell.

“It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Opposition because people remembered what (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and Sushma said rather than the (statements of) Opposition leaders, and actually felt bad when the BJP lost the motion. Our ride to victory started from that day,” a source said.

The BJP is more troubled by the Opposition solidarity that appears to have culminated in the no-trust move. The party has noted the growing camaraderie between Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The BJP is as worried about the implications of the growing closeness for Uttar Pradesh, where its own alliance with the BSP is shaky.

The BJP had earlier hoped for a ruling by the Speaker on August 18 — when Parliament reassembles — similar to the one delivered by Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat yesterday.

Shekhawat had said that the vigilance commission was not tasked to probe the procurement of arms for Operation Vijay in Kargil and had, consequently, not submitted any report. He had then disallowed a discussion.

The sources expected a similar ruling by the Speaker as he had hinted this morning that he believed the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had not finished examining the Comptroller and Auditor-General’s report on defence procurement for Operation Vijay. The hint came at an all-party meeting he called today to end the standoff.

Ten BJP MPs today moved a breach of privilege against PAC chairman Buta Singh and demanded his resignation for allegedly misleading panel members and submitting an “incomplete” report.

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