No-trust vote turns out be war of words between PM and INDIA alliance

While Congress slammed the PM for giving only three minutes to Manipur in his two-hour long speech, the former hit back saying that HM Amit Shah had already given a comprehensive response and charged the opposition of  “playing politics” on the issue, writes Amit Agnihotri

The no-confidence motion debate in Parliament turned into a war of words between PM Modi and the opposition bloc INDIA which is trying to defeat him in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The no-confidence motion was debated in the Lok Sabha from Aug 8 to 10 with both the sides levelling charges against each other. The opposition block INDIA walked out in protest against the PM’s reply in the Lok Sabha on Aug 10 after which the motion was defeated in a voice vote.

That was a foregone conclusion given the BJP’s majority in the Lok Sabha but the debate provided a chance to the opposition to showcase unity and compel the Prime Minister to speak in the House.

“This was not about numbers. We wanted the PM to come to the Parliament and speak on the ongoing crisis in Manipur. We had been urging the PM to speak in either House of Parliament and had even moved several adjournment motions so that the Manipur issue be discussed but the government was not ready for a detailed discussion but only a small discussion,” Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Gourav Gogoi, who moved the no-confidence motion, said.

“Manipur has been suffering for the past three months. The PM should have visited there but instead, our leader Rahul Gandhi had to go there and appeal for peace. The people of the state need a healing touch. Manipur is a border state and affects our national security also. The BJP is in power at the Centre and in the state but still it failed to bring peace to the north-eastern state,” he said.

As the debate was on, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that the Bharatiya Janata Party- led government at the Centre should quit Delhi. She made the remarks on the occasion of the Quit India Movement’s 81st anniversary. In the Lok Sabha, TMC MP Mahua Moitra slammed the Centre over the Manipur issue. “Everyone asks if not Modiji then who? After this inaction on Manipur, India will say, ‘anyone but Modi,” she said.

“We (opposition), in turn, have felt compelled to ask what about the violence in Haryana. I want to tell this House that Manipur is different and I will tell you why. The issue of Manipur is of a hate crime against a particular community where it is understood that the police personnel of one community, possibly the same community as of the chief minister, handed over women of another community to be raped and pillaged by a mob and made every attempt to prevent those women from seeking justice,” she alleged.

After the debate, the Congress slammed the PM for giving a two-hour long speech which mentioned Manipur only for three minutes saying the premier did not answer the questions raised by the opposition over the crisis in the north-eastern state.

The opposition block had been protesting over the Manipur issue since the start of the monsoon session July 20 demanding a discussion on Manipur and the PM’s statement.

The stand-off in Rajya Sabha continued with the opposition sticking to its demand of a longer discussion on Manipur under Rule 267 while the Centre had agreed to only a shorter discussion under Rule 176. The Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar had requested the two sides to resolve the stalemate so that discussion can take place.

The Parliament cleared a crucial legislation during the session that takes away the control from Delhi government over posting and transfer of officers in the national capital. The bill replaced an ordinance enforced earlier by the central government. The INDIA block opposed the bill but the Centre managed to get it passed in both the Houses. Later, AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal thanked Rahul Gandhi and Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge for opposing the bill.

Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was suspended on Aug 10 for misconduct. Chowdhury said he had said nothing wrong against the Prime Minister and called his suspension the “tyranny of the majority.”

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said the suspension of Chowdhury was “undemocratic” and “unfortunate”. It “reflects the arrogance of power and malice. This tradition will prove fatal for both the Constitution and parliamentary democracy. We strongly condemn it,” he said.

The session ended on August 11, ahead of the scheduled Aug 17.

Rahul slams PM

The no-confidence motion debate provided another opportunity to former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who returned to Parliament after four months, to attack PM Modi over communal violence in the north-eastern Manipur and Haryana bordering Delhi.

Rahul was disqualified from the Lok Sabha on March 24 a day after he was convicted and sentenced to a two-year jail term by a Surat court in a 2019 criminal defamation case involving the PM’s surname. In February, Rahul had attacked the PM in Lok Sabha and questioned his alleged links with businessman Gautam Adani and demanded a JPC probe into the issue.

Later, the Congress had alleged that Rahul’s conviction and disqualification was part of a conspiracy by the BJP as he had been asking tough questions from the government. The entire party had launched a nation-wide satyagraha against the BJP for targeting its leader and alleged that the government was not doing anything to address the more pressing public issues like price rise and high unemployment in the country.

Rahul’s House membership was restored when the Supreme Court stayed his conviction on August 4 after a long legal battle. The case would go on and would be decided by the apex court in due time. When Rahul was re-allotted his old official bungalow that had been taken away due to disqualification, the former Congress chief remarked that the entire country was his home. He stayed with his mother Sonia Gandhi for the past four months.

“India is a voice, a voice of the heart. You have killed that voice in Manipur. You have murdered Bharat Mata in Manipur. You are traitors. My mother is sitting here. The other mother, Bharat Mata, was killed in Manipur. That is why the Prime Minister does not visit Manipur. You are not protectors of Bharat Mata, you are her killer,” Rahul said in the House.

“The BJP has murdered India in Manipur and is now trying to set Haryana on fire. The Prime Minister has not gone to Manipur because he doesn’t consider it a part of India. You (BJP) have divided Manipur,” Rahul said.

He alleged that the centre could stop violence in Manipur by calling in the Army, but had not acted yet.

Invoking the epic Ramayana, Rahul said Ravan was not killed by Lord Ram, but by his arrogance. “You have sprinkled kerosene everywhere, you have set fire to Manipur, you are now trying the same thing in Haryana,” he said.

The former Congress chief was referring to recent communal clashes in Gurugram and Nuh that killed six people.

Rahul also recounted his Bharat Jodo Yatra saying when had started from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu for Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, he was confident of his fitness and did not expect it to be difficult. “But this country does not tolerate arrogance. Within a few days, an old injury resurfaced and I was in pain,” he said.

The Congress leader recounted how he derived strength and courage from the people he met during the march and also felt their pain and hardship. Rahul also recounted his conversations with two women in the relief camps set up to shelter those displaced due to ethnic violence in Manipur.

“People used to ask me why you started the Yatra. I was not even aware why I started the Yatra. I realised that I started the Yatra to understand the country. I also wanted to understand why I was abused for 10 years. To listen to the nation’s voice, we will have to give up on arrogance and hatred,” he said.

PM’s speech

The PM attacked the opposition and said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah had already given a comprehensive response on Manipur but the opposition only wanted to “play politics”.

The PM blamed the opposition for the events in Manipur, saying it was the result of Congress politics and highlighted the separatist movements in several northeastern states.

Recalling the last such motion moved by Telugu Desam Party in 2018, PM Modi said: “Even then I had said, the motion is not a floor test of our government but theirs. In a way, the opposition no-confidence motion is a good omen for us”.

He predicted another such motion in 2028, which, he said, will pave the way for victory in 2029.

Before the PM, various BJP leaders like Amit Shah and Jyotiraditya Scindia slammed the opposition block for bringing the no-confidence motion.

To this, Rahul said that the PM ridiculed the crisis in Manipur and was laughing during his Lok Sabha speech. Congress leader KC Venugopal said that the people will express their no-confidence against the NDA in 2024 alluding to the general election to be held in that year.