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Home > India > News > Columnists > B S Raghavan

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Trust vote: Why UPA must think out of the box

July 17, 2008

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According to media reports, the United Progressive Alliance government is proposing to seek the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha on the basis of a simple, one-line motion, stating (with appropriate verbal variations) that "This House expresses its confidence in the government." The government needs to seriously consider whether there are other ways of making the most of the trust vote.

It would have indeed been tactically a vastly superior move on the part of the government to have made the Left to move a motion of no-confidence. Apart from tactics, it would have been proper too. It was the Left's manifest want of confidence in the nuclear deal that led to the withdrawal of support to the government from the outside, triggering the ongoing political crisis.

The government could have legitimately argued that it was for those who have lost confidence in it to give public expression to it on the floor of the House. The government was under no obligation to act on the assumption that simply because of the Left's withdrawal of support, it has ceased to enjoy the confidence of Parliament and the nation across the board. Such a course would have also had the advantage of forcing the Left to side more conspicuously with the Bharatiya Janata Party (or vice versa). It is not too late for the government to adopt this strategy.

In the event of the government sticking to its present line of thinking, there is a further refinement with which it can up the ante, throwing those opposing its nuclear policy into disarray. The government should think a dozen times before it gives its case away by a blanket motion of expression of confidence. After all, why should it give a handle to its opponents to blur the one and only cause of the motion and to talk at large by raising all kinds of issues that never figured in the public discourse preceding the motion? Even now, the focus of the country-wide campaign of the Left is only the nuclear deal.

The omnibus motion under the consideration of the government will enormously help the opponents to create the illusion that they want to pull the government down for overall mismanagement and not on the nuclear deal. The government will be unwise to hand on a platter such an opportunity to extend the scope and sweep of the Lok Sabha debate to its own detriment.

Out-of-the-box approach

The best thing, therefore, is for the government to make it crystal clear to all sections of opinion in the country by changing the language of the motion that it is meant to be an endorsement of the nuclear deal and it has no bearing on any of the other complaints the critics may have against the conduct of the government.

There is yet another aspect where an imaginative, and out-of-the-box, approach by the government will immensely raise its stock in the eyes of the people. It will help elicit the real will of the House on the nuclear deal, especially in the context of the statement (which sounds credible on the face of it) of Rahul Gandhi [Images] that many young MPs, cutting across parties, view the deal to be in national interest and are unhappy about the stand of their party leadership.

There is, therefore, every justification for the government to propose that MPs should not be bound by party whip but should be allowed to vote on the motion as per their independently and genuinely held opinion. This will also put paid to all the malodorous contentions of MPs being on the take for Rs.25-30 crores each for casting their votes one way or the other.

There are precedents for all the suggested courses of action and with the needed ingenuity and adroitness, the government can make the vote of confidence a memorable feather in its cap. Even if notice of the motion has already been given, it can be replaced with a substitute motion.

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