The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Fernandes spots chinks in rival armour

Bangalore, Aug. 20 (PTI): National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes today said the resounding defeat of the no-confidence motion against the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government has revealed “chinks” in the Congress-led Opposition and underlined that the coalition was “very firm and well knit”.

“It has shown chinks…. In the sense that there wasn’t a common purpose and determination or total unity of whatever their (Congress-led) formation,” the defence minister told reporters here, a day after the 126-vote defeat of the no-trust motion in Parliament.

Fernandes said yesterday’s debate had made it clear that the NDA “stood firm” and “there is not even any hiccup which we had to face in the early phase”. The NDA was the platform created five years ago “through which we went to polls and won”, he added, stressing that the allies would fight the next elections from the same platform.

The Congress is “trying to assemble (a combine) but it is not sticking together”, the NDA leader said. “I feel that the Congress lacks the kind of resilience that is needed to put up a platform together.” Asked if he thought the defeat was a “setback to Sonia Gandhi”, Fernandes said: “You may say so if you wish to say so.”

Asserting that the NDA was “always strong”, he said the vote has helped to show how “well-knit the NDA is and how it was holding together despite ups and downs”.

Fernandes seemed unruffled that some non-Congress parties were continuing to boycott him in Parliament. He said he had survived the earlier boycott and “can survive if some others want to continue with it”.

Asked if the debate on the no-trust motion, which saw the Congress end its boycott of the minister, had given him “confidence”, Fernandes shot back: “I never lose confidence. I am an eternal fighter. I will remain one.”

Fernandes admitted that he tried to contact Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa before the trust vote, but added: “I had not called her for any particular issue. She was not available.”

Asked “how close” Jayalalithaa’s ADMK had come to the NDA, he said he could not say that it has come close. “They stayed neutral (during the voting).” Asked if NDA leaders planned to meet Jayalalithaa, Fernandes said: “Meeting takes place only when there is a purpose.”

On political polarisation before the next elections, the defence minister said elections were far away, “almost a year to go”.

Fernandes made it clear that when Vajpayee spoke on elections in his reply in Parliament last night, “that challenge was in the context of the no-confidence motion” to tell the Opposition that it could not defeat the government or break the ruling alliance.

The Prime Minister had said his government would be there as long as people want it and that the coming Assembly elections in five states would be a trial of strength. Vajpayee’s statement, Fernandes said, did not mean early polls.

On Sonia’s reference to the Emergency during the debate on the no-trust motion, Fernandes said he did not know what brought the Congress chief “memories” of the days of the Emergency. “She only can tell,” he added.

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