The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress counts gains of loss
- Vajpayee emerges NDA best bet; Opposition takes consolation in having ‘unnerved’ PM

New Delhi, Aug. 20: The drama and the din are over and all the combatants have trooped out. But a day after the 27th no-confidence motion in the country’s parliamentary history fell through, one question lingers: what prompted Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to move it'

It is not because the motion was defeated by a huge margin. No-trust motions have been defeated by bigger margins. None of the previous 26 motions resulted in the fall of the government on the floor of the Lok Sabha, though, in 1979, the Morarji Desai-led Janata Party government had bowed out of office rather than face Opposition leader Y.B. Chavan’s notice of no-trust.

Congress leaders today insisted that the logic behind Sonia’s move was no different from the earlier ones. It did not intend to topple the government. Left to it, the Congress might even have not sought a House division, knowing well that the Opposition did not have the numbers, they said.

Party leaders are inclined to believe that the debate succeeded in “unnerving” Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh produced a letter purportedly written by a Sangh parivar leader during the Emergency days of 1975-77. The letter was allegedly written by the head of a socio-cultural organisation close to the BJP, requesting Indira Gandhi to release him from jail.

“We have proved a point to those who never get tired of making personal attacks on Sonia: that Vajpayee is also vulnerable to personal attacks,” said a senior leader.

Apparently, the letter reached the RJD leader from the Congress quarters in the context of a challenge thrown to Sonia by Chandra Shekhar on Monday. The former Prime Minister had challenged Sonia to produce evidence to back her assertion that she was in possession of letters written by BJP leaders to Indira Gandhi for their release from jail.

The Congress listed four other “gains”. First, the debate, it claimed, has helped project Sonia as the “unquestioned” leader of the Opposition. “The credibility of the leader of the Opposition has gone up,” said a party leader.

Second, they said the Congress has successfully “expanded the agenda of attack on the government beyond (defence minister) George Fernandes”, whom they had boycotted since his reinduction into the cabinet after the Tehelka scandal erupted. “There has hardly been any convincing reply from the government on the various charges Sonia levelled while moving the motion,” a leader asserted.

Third, party leaders said the National Democratic Alliance government stood completely “exposed” after the debate. Vajpayee’s evasive reply was proof of the Opposition’s success, they claimed.

Last, they said the Congress found a way out of the standoff in Parliament. “It was our way of breaking the deadlock and we succeeded with dignity,” said a party leader.

The Congress, however, underplayed the lack of Opposition unity. The Left parties and the RJD had walked out when Fernandes stood up to speak. But the Congress and others on the Opposition benches remained. “How can we walk out on our motion'” said a party leader.

The Congress’ reasoning is that there cannot be a “regimentalised” unity among the Opposition parties.

It was not possible even within a party, Congress leaders claimed.

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