BJP looks ahead to winning trust vote
George Iype in New Delhi
The five-day-old Atal Bihari Vajpayee government sailed through its first litmus test on
Tuesday when the Telugu Desam Party's Ganti Mohana Chandra Balayogi was elected Speaker of the 12th Lok Sabha.
Balayogi, a joint candidate of the TDP, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its alliance partners, beat the
Congress-United Front nominee Purno A Sangma.
Soon after the swearing-in ceremony of the members of Parliament concluded on Tuesday afternoon, Prime
Minister Vajpayee moved a motion proposing Balayogi's name as the new Speaker. BJP president and Home
Minister Lal Kishinchand Advani seconded the candidature.
Balayogi was, thus, declared elected as Speaker by a voice vote by Pro Tem Speaker Indrajit Gupta. Before that
the House rejected a motion moved by Opposition leader Sharad Pawar proposing Sangma's name.
Gupta also ruled that since there
were 14 other motions proposing Sangma's name, he was not
allowing them as Pawar's motion had been rejected. C
Vidyasagar Rao withdrew his motion proposing TDP MP K
Yerran Naidu's name as Speaker.
After his election, Balayogi was escorted to the Speaker's chair
by Vajpayee and Pawar. Even as Balayogi called
upon the prime minister to speak, there were shouts of 'shame
In his speech, Vajpayee said Balayogi's election was a sign
of the changing times, and he had taken over at a difficult
juncture. The prime minister said Balayogi was occupying a chair
earlier adorned by luminaries like Sardar Patel and
G V Mavalankar, and two former speakers -- Shivraj Patil and
Sangma -- were now members of the House.
There were protests as Vajpayee said he was happy that
Pawar as leader of the Opposition had facilitated in the smooth
election process. When he was interrupted, he said angrily that if
it was a crime to congratulate the new Speaker, then he was guilty
of the crime. He said a few members could not hold the
House to ransom.
Pawar said Balayogi had been
entrusted with the onerous responsibility of strengthening
democracy. He also noted that the nature of the mandate had placed a major
responsibility on all members of the House.
Former Bihar chief minister Laloo Prasad Yadav,
former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BSP leader Mayawati, former
Punjab chief minister and Akali Dal leader Surjeet Singh Barnala
also felicitated Balayogi on becoming Speaker.
Mayawati said she and her party staged a walkout earlier
when the prime minister was speaking because she wanted some
clarifications from Vajpayee who did not give her an opportunity to speak. It was in no way to show any disrespect to the
Speaker's election, she clarified.
Soon after the election, sensing that the Congress and United Front had botched up the Speaker's election, both groups issued a joint statement.
The statement, signed by senior leaders like former prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and Chandra Shekhar, Geeta
Mukherjee and Pawar, underlined the need for Opposition unity and better co-ordination between the UF
and the Congress.
The statement alleged that the BJP indulged "in unethical politics and cheated Sangma." It warned that if
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Madan Lal Khurana intends to operate the way he has done in this issue,
it would be difficult to co-operate with him in future.
Balayogi, who represents the Amalapuram reserved constituency in Andhra Pradesh, is the first Dalit to become
Lok Sabha Speaker in India.
Earlier in the day, the 12 TDP MPs who occupied the Opposition benches on Monday moved to
the Treasury benches in the Lok Sabha following the deal clinched between the BJP leadership and the TDP president and AP
Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu on the Speaker's selection.
Now that the Speaker's election has gone smoothly for the BJP, the Vajpayee government is all set to
win the vote of confidence on Friday.
President Kocheril Raman Narayanan will address Parliament on Wednesday. While the
House will carry out all financial matters through a vote on account on Thursday, the BJP-led government will
seek a vote of confidence on Friday.
The BJP, which has managed to split the 13-party United Front and entice the Asom Gana Parishad, National
Conference and TDP to support the Vajpayee government, is now confident of winning the crucial
trust vote by winning 275 to 280 votes.
The BJP leadership is confident that the votes against the trust motion would not cross the 250-mark.
Party sources hinted that there will be many surprise abstentions during voting "because the BJP is on a
While Monday's dramatic political developments led to Balayogi's surprise election as Speaker,
sources said the successful pact between the BJP and the TDP is certainly to continue soon after the Vajpayee
government wins the confidence vote.
Though Naidu has claimed that the TDP will not join the BJP-led government at the Centre,
many expect him to perform another somersault when Prime Minister Vajpayee expands the council of ministers in the first
week of April.
Sources said the BJP leadership has offered Naidu a two-point formula to force the TDP to join the Vajpayee government. First, the TDP has been offered two Cabinet berths -- probably the
ministries of agriculture and rural development -- and one minister of state berth in the government. The prime
minister currently holds charge of the agriculture ministry.
Second, the Vajpayee regime has offered AP a special economic package to rescue the Naidu government from its financial problems.
Additional reportage by UNI
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