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March 28, 1998

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'Vajpayee will win trust vote, but lose the people's hearts'

''Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost the confidence of the Lok Sabha in May 1996, but won the hearts of the people. Today, he will win the confidence of the House, but will lose the people's hearts due to the political engineering performed by the Bharatiya Janata Party after the polls.''

That is how former Lok Sabha speaker and senior Congress leader Purno A Sangma summed up his electrifying speech, laced with wit and wisdom, which was heard in rapt attention by the House and millions of viewers across the country.

Focusing on the sad state of affairs facing the country, he recounted how parties and their leaders have lost their credibility due to their mindless craving for power. ''Earlier, people used to approach the high command, saying give me a particular constituency. When asked why, their answer was: 'Because the people there know me.' Today, leaders approach the high command, begging that a particular constituency should not be given to them. Asked why, they would say, 'Because the people there know me!' ''

The House burst into peels of laughter even as Sangma shifted attention to the question of stability.

Expressing concern over political instability and repeated fractured mandates, he said all parties would have to think about it. He also referred to the proliferation of regional parties and the disintegration of national parties. The 11th Lok Sabha had 29 parties, but the 12th Lok Sabha 42 parties. ''Tomorrow you might have 43. Who knows? Maybe 44,'' he said.

''In my home state Meghalaya, there is stability,'' he said. ''Why not? When a 60-member assembly has 28 ministers besides the speaker and the deputy speaker! Same is the case with Arunachal Pradesh. Thirtyfive ministers plus the speaker and the deputy speaker.''

Another roar of laughter. But the 11th Lok Sabha speaker, who lost the 12th Lok Sabha speaker election on Tuesday, went on to tackle the issue of good governance.

''Stability is important. What is more important is whether the government is able to provide good governance... The same BJP, which took the 13-party United Front to task for its 'failure to bring stability and good governance', now promises those traits though it leads an 18-party alliance. Moreover, how can anyone forget the backmail resorted to by a south Indian party? That Vajpayee had to wait for four days to get that party chief's love letter?''

Opposing the motion, Sangma drove home the point about the threat of individual members holding the balance of the government in their hands through a humorous tale. ''Two wives of candidates in the fray were discussing the elections. Both claimed that, whichever political party comes to power, their husbands were bound to be in the Cabinet. While the first said her husband was an Independent candidate, the second said her husband was the member of a single-member national political party.''

Referring to the alliance's national agenda for governance, Sangma said he saw a 'hidden agenda' in it. Asking the prime minister to correct him if he is wrong, Sangma said some contentious issues like the common civil code had been couched in euphemisms in the national agenda.

Referring to the chapter on 'youth reconstruction core', Sangma asked, ''Are they not referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?''

Sangma said the ruling alliance, which is not sure of its stability, has promised a number of things -- education for all, water for all, employment for all in five years. ''What a Utopian document is the national agenda!'' he said, asking from where the government would be able to mobilise funds and resources to achieve such an uphill task.

He inferred that, as the Vajpayee government was not sure of its remaining in the seat, it had made such promises.

Comparing the agenda with the presidential address, Sangma said that President K R Narayanan's address had not referred to the nuclear issue while was clearly stated in the agenda. He asked why such an important issue was dropped and whether it was because of the telephonic talk Vajpayee had with US President Bill Clinton.


Elections '98

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