No need for trust vote, says govt
After a day-long speculation that the UPA government may take the Bhartiya Janata Party head on by bringing a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha either next week or on Tuesday or Wednesday when prime minister Manmohan Singh is away in Iran to show the majority is with him, parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal ruled out any such move under consideration.
A confidence vote is necessary only when the majority of the government is in dispute and it is required to prove that it has the number to remain in power, he said, pointing out that the numbers are not in dispute as even the main Opposition concedes the government has the numbers as a reason why it would not bring a no-confidence motion. He accused the BJP of trying to make parliament irrelevant and expressed shock at Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj threatening to prevent functioning of parliament. "Never heard an Opposition leader saying no to debate."
Finance minister P Chidambaram also told a press conference in the evening that the government enjoys confidence of parliament and confidence of people and hence no question of the preposterous talk of a confidence vote. He was part of a group of ministers fielded by the government in the evening to challenge the BJP to debate in Parliament than fritter away energies outside.
Taunting the BJP for so eloquently commenting on the PM's statement made in Parliament on "coalgate", Chidambaram said its leaders can put their case equally with same force in the two Houses instead of converting the BJP headquarters' auditorium and PIB (Press Information Bureau) conference hall into the third chamber of parliament besides Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. He was referring to BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley holding a press conference in the party auditorium and he, along with union ministers Kapil Sibal and Ambika Soni, replying to them at another Press conference in the PIB hall.
Chidambaram also described as "most unfortunate" the claim of Sonia Gandhi that the Congress got "mota maal" in the allocation of the coal blocks, saying one should avoid sweeping remarks that lower the worth of the serious debate. It is in bad taste, he said.
Ambika Soni said if the BJP were really concerned about losses in the coal blocks' allocation, it should not have claimed obstructionism is better policy than debating the issue in parliament. If obstructionism is the ideology of BJP, it is end of the Parliamentary democracy, Kapil Sibal said.
Chidambaram said if everybody debates outside parliament, it will only weaken the democracy and leave a black spot on the parliamentary democracy. He hoped people of India will persuade the BJP to return to parliament and join the debate on the statement tabled by the PM in parliament on Monday.
Other ministers also ruled out the BJP's demand to cancel all the coal blocks that attracted critical remarks of the CAG, pointing out that is a procedure for such actions on case to case basis and not through sweeping cancellation. They said the government will agree on the debate under a rule which also entails voting at the end if the BJP thinks it has a strong case to sting the government.
The prime minister, who defended the coal blocks' allocation policy in vogue since 1993 and owned up "full responsibility" for the decisions of the coal ministry in a statement in both the Houses of Parliament, also spoke outside, urging the BJP to let Parliament function. "This is an occasion where I do want and I wish I should be given an opportunity to speak in Parliament and to the public at large and take them into confidence. The BJP is determined to disrupt the House," he told reporters.
Taking to Hindi poetry, Manmohan Singh added, "Hazaron jawabo se achchi hai meri khamoshi (My silence is better than many answers). This is one occasion where I wished to speak to Parliament and public at large. I am sorry that the House was not allowed to function and the BJP did not allow the House to function."
It was for the first time on Monday that the PM took the charge and defended the coal blocks' allocation which was till now being done by ministers like Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Congress spokespersons -- all chiding the BJP for running away from debate in Parliament.
It is perhaps only second time that Manmohan Singh has taken such a strong stand on a policy decision. The first time he did so was on the Indo-US nuclear deal on which he staked the survival of the UPA-I government in 2008 after the Left Parties withdrew outside support and won a vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha.