More excerpts this time from Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s reply to the debate on the motion of Confidence in April of 1999. The original speech in hindi can be found here in the Lok Sabha debates.
Offstumped’s english translation of excerpts from Vajpayee’s Speech
Mr. Speaker, the day before yesterday when I introduced the motion of confidence I had told this house that I looked forward to listening to what the members had to say before speaking myself. Today its my turn to speak. It does not behoove of the opposition to obstruct my turn to speak.
I am thankful of the honorable members for their desire to listen to me speak.
An allegation has been made, it has been complained that I have forsaken political morality.
Mr. Speaker I have been associated with the Parliament for 40 years. I have seen Minority Governments. Mrs Indira Gandhi had a run a Minority Government too but no allegations of political immorality were made then. Mr. Narasimha Rao has run a Minority Government as well and we all know to what lengths the Congress went to preserve that Minority Government.
But if the Opposition is fixated on holding my lack of majority to the test, they could have brought a no-confidence motion. I am stumped as to why the Opposition has been epxending its energy in trekking to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to submit memoranda instead of getting united and moving a no-confidence motion.
When the President asked me to prove my majority, I immideately agreed. We have had 2 days of debate and now it is coming to a close. The debate could have been better. We are the world’s largest democracy. It is a shame that we have set such a low benchmark for the standard of debate in the Lok Sabha. It makes me wonder what example we are setting for those nations who are just now embracing democracy.
When will our public life extricate itself from this vicious spiral of allegations and counter-allegations ?
If specific allegations are made, they must be backed up by facts and evidence. Merely parroting? what is printed in the media does not make for either constructive or meaningful debate.
Mr. Speaker, my Government is 13 months old. It is now being held to a trial by fire. I have not made any tall claims of being an experienced administrator, but I can definitelty stake claim to being an honest public servant.
In my public life in the Opposition never has any allegation been made against me that I have acted against the National Interest. So how can it be that all of sudden I am accused of the same ? Has being in power changed me so drastically ? Does power corrupt to this degree ?? If such accusations can be made of me with merely 13 months in power, what of those who have been in power for 40 years ?
The circumstances of the last elections and the fractured verdict have made it imperative that a coalition government be formed. At that time we had reiterated to the President that we dont have the numbers to form the government and if any other formation had the numbers they must be invited to form the government. We will be quite content to sit in the opposition benches a little longer.
But the reality is no one was ready to form a government then. 13 months later however, it appears the story is different.
Mr. Speaker, the principal Opposition party had promised to play a constructive role. Had promised not to getting into the game of toppling the government through? backroom wheeling-dealing.?Had promised to wait till such a time when it gets a majority of its own. It appears that Panchmarhi is now a distant dream. that has blurred into the recesses of memory.
New coalitions are coming together. Our coalition is being commented upon. Atleast ours was a pre-poll coalition that fought the election under a common platform. We presented a National Agenda to run the government. But today we are witnessing a coming together of vested interests, parties which have little in common. Parties which do not even share a common understanding or agenda. This is political obstructionism and negativity at its worst.
We have always been consistent in words and actions that Indian politics has taken a federal turn that has regional parties playing a central role. The rise of the regional parties is symbolic of our national diversity. It is also symbolic of how the hopes and aspirations of States have been betrayed by those parties that call themselves “All India” parties.
We have run a coalition government for 13 months with the support of many regional parties. Some parties have left us but their conduct has not been detrimental to national interest or national integrity. We may have had differences of opinion but there has never been any doubt on our mutual faith and commitment to the nation’s interest.
This is a welcome development that needs to be celebrated.
But the Congress’ attitude towards regional parties has been unhealthy and negative. In its 1998 manifesto here is what the Congress had to say
“By their very nature, regional parties lack a national perspective and can never rise above local ethnic considerations. They adopt populist platforms for coming to power. They incite narrow linguistic or ethnic sentiments. Very soon these agendas become a recipe for economic disaster and social turmoil.”
If this is what the Congress believes of the regional parties in its analysis, then on what basis is the Congress preparing to form a coalition with them ?? In addition to the regional parties, let me also illustrate what the Congress thinks of the Left parties
“As for the Left Parties, even after seven decades, the CPI and the CPM, have not been able to integrate themselves into the national mainstream.”
These are serious allegations, these are a central part of the Congress manifesto. The message is loud and clear. So should we take it that the attempt to form a coalition now is an attempt to integrate the Left parties into the national mainstream ?
The Janata Dal may be in two minds on its position but it is imperative to highlight what the Congress thinks of the Janata Dal
“The Janata Dal was born in a convulsive fit of anti-Congressism in 1989. It is a collection of disparate groups and embittered individuals driven by egos. It can hardly be called a serious political formation. Like an amoeba, it lives on splitting itself into smaller and smaller groups. Its platform of social justice is hollow and is just a misleading cover for the practice of a divisive caste politics.”
If this is the basis for this ganging up of parties, it is meaningless to even talk of stability. An attempt has been made to destabilize my government. An allegation has also been made that my Government is ridden with contradictions from parties with opposite views.
Let me challenge the opposition if the incomplete structure it is attempting to prop up is based on anything common ?
Is there a shared agenda, shared values, a visionary leadership ?
Lalu Yadav has contended that if we vacate office, he would put an alternative up in less than a minute. Does not the opposition owe the people an explanation on what the alternative is that is being propped up to displace a government duly elected by the will of the people ?
If there was a mandate it was for the NDA and not for the opposition ?
Mr. Speaker over the 13 months we have strived to operationalize our agenda in the service of this nation.
Our foundation is a national agenda. We have strived to move forward with its guidance.This is a 5 year mission and we have a full mind to go through with it.
Can anyone make the contention that the condition of the nation has improved significantly since we assumed power ?
Be it the economy, the security of the nation or relations with the world community, I can say with full authority that we have strived to march forward on all fronts and this march forward has met with success.
It is surprising that the decision to test Nuclear Weapons has also been criticized. Questions were raised on what dangers the nation was facing to prompt this decision to test.
I was in Parliament in 1974 when under Indira Gandhi’s Leadership India went Nuclear. I was the first to welcome the decision. Despite being the opposition we did not shy away from supporting the test because it was in the Indian National Interest.
What dangers did the nation face then ?
Is it mandatory that measures to secure the nation be taken only in the face of immideate and impending danger ?
We took the decision to test as a pre-emptive measure to not just be prepared but to also thwart dangers from even materializing.? This was always a part of our national agenda. It was no state secret.
Mr. Chandrashekar has expressed some views on the Nuclear Tests, I am afraid I cannot agree with those views. His thinking has a distinct twist it to. But the last 50 years of Independence have taught us to be self reliant in our defence needs.
We dont have just one neighbour, we have many neighbours. What is happening in Europe today ought to be a warning to this nation. The Pokharan Tests were not an exercise to flaunt power and boost ego. They were not undertaken for any immideate personal gain.
It was our belief, and in my opinion the belief of this Nation that India must maintain a minimum and credible Nuclear Deterrent. That was the reason for the tests to be undertaken. We anticipated hardships to the nation on account of the tests. But we were also confident that this nation was resilient enough to endure those hardships and that is exactly what has happened.
The economic sanctions have not stopped us from marching forward. They have not shackled our ability to make decisions on our defence needs. But with the tests we also made a commitment. A commitment to never be the first to use Nuclear Weapons and a commitment to never use them against a non-Nuclear state. We also made a commitment to freeze all testing. We had eveery intention to conduct further tests in Pokharan but we did not do so once the scientific results were to our satisfaction.
Nuclear weapons can have a defensive purpose too. They can be a protective shield to prevent war from escalating. Europe stands testimony to this balance of power roooted in the principle of mutually assured? destruction.
Instead of nitpicking I urge the members of the house to reflect on this strategic use of Nuclear Weapons.
There has been criticism of the Agni Missile Program as well. I was surprise to learn from the newspapers of allegations that we suspended the testing of Agni under external pressure. That very same day we tested the Agni Missile lest this insinuation gain credibility in not just this country but in national capitals across the world.
Mr. Speaker in 13 months of government we have never allowed ourselves to be pressured by any external force to take any decisions and I dont believe India will ever see a Government that will allow itself to be dictated by a foreign power.
But I know that India did see such a Government in the past, especially the Congress Government which was reluctant to proceed with Nuclear testing. Former President Venkatraman who was then Defence Minister has confirmed this. Preparations were afoot, I was to attend the testing but it was called off due to International pressure.
Is it necessary for India to always function under International pressure ?
Should we not be free to make our choices on National Security ?
There was International pressure on my Government too. But we did not allow it to dictate our steps to secure this nation’s strategic interests.? Only when the nation’s interests are secure can Justice be upheld. Only when the nation’s borders are impregnable can the nation building project be taken to unparalleled heights.
We have been the victims of aggression on three occassions. Such an eventuality must not arise again. We neither have the desire nor the intention to attack anyone. I have been asked what is the connection between Pokharan-2 and the Lahore bus yatra. They are two sides of the same coin. When we are determined in our defence of our interests and honest in our intention to engage peacefully with our neighbours can we expect to be taken with credibility and seriouness.
That our relations with many nations have improved is an undeniable fact. To contend that these relations have suffered is not just hurting national interest it is also sending a negative message to those nations that have engaged with us.
We have no intention of interefering in other nation’s affairs and nor do we have any interest in allowing other nation’s to interfere in ours.
Yesterday it was contended that the Opposition was not taken into confidence. It has been wronffully alleged that we had promised consensus based decision making in our National Agenda but we have not delivered on that promise.
Where debate was necessary we engaged in debate, where the opposition was to be taken into confidence we followed through. But let me make it clear that to run a complex and diverse nation such as ours the onus on consensus does not rest on the Government alone. The Opposition shares this responsibility as well.
Have we not discharged this responsibility when in the opposition ? That too despite the Congress not taking us into confidence on Pokharan. But we did not make that a reason for not cooperating with the Government.
Many such questions have been thrown at us. It has been endeavour to evolve a consensus and to take everyone into confidence. But the Opposition must do its bit too.
Many avenues need to be opened to engage in such discussion and consensus building. We have been made the target of the Women’s Reservation Bill as well.
The whole world knows we dont have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. Major bills have been passed with the support of the Opposition. The Opposition has viewed those bills as important and being in the National Interest. But to blame us for the lack of consensus within the Opposition for legislation that remains stalled is unfair to us. The women’s bill is a great example.
When we assumed power the state of the Indian economy was precarious. It is an undeniable fact today that the economy has improved significantly since then. Even the most discriminating and partisan analysis cannot but come to the conclusion that the economy has improved.
The economy can be managed but frequent political instability takes its tolll on the economy. Should this nation suffer this every year ? The opposition will have to face these questions too. How does it expect to marshall more consensus that we have ? Is this ganging up merely to displace us power even if an alternative remains remote ?
The nation is being kept in the dark. The nation is not being taken into confidence.
Is this moral practice of politics ?
When the nation is faced with crisis, the national interest demands that we work together instead attempting to make political capital of the crises. We need to change our mindset on this partisan practice of politics.
Let me addres one other issue concerning the removal of some Naval Officers. The defence minister has presented to the house confidential documents. The debate should be on the basis of these confidential facts and not on the basis of allegations and counter-allegations.
Strange is the nature of our public debate. Whenever any public issues presents itself our natural instinct is to suspect foul play. In 40 years of public service we have strived to eliminate corruption. There is no question of us compromising on the question of corruption. If compromise was an option we would not be here trying to defend our majority.
Mr. Speaker the question that faces us today is not whether this government will run or not run. The real question is if this Nation will march forward or not. The real question is if the will of the people will be respected or not.
If one coalition government is replaced by another coalition, how can the replacement escape the same questions that have been asked of the former ?
There are limits to a coalition government. We need to understand those limits better and make adjustments appropriately.
I can understand the dilemma that faces the Congress on whether to topple the government, whether to go for the kill to share the spoils of power. There are however hurdles. But i am of the firm opinion that these hurdles can be overcome through a democratic process.
We have had 2 days of debate. The debate was more heated than necessary. It is important for us to maintain our balance. Democracy is both our jewel of pride and weapon of prime importance. We had together resolved to adopt it as the means of conducting our public affairs. Every citizen is assured of equality in this democracy and it is incumbent upon us to strengthen its foundations.
This can only happen when Institutions are strengthened and best practices respected. It has been said of me that I want to protect these Institutions but I have been pressured and rendered helpless. I am not that weak as the opposition would have you believe.
Whenever?the nation needed firm and tough decisions I have never deterred, it stumps me on the basis of what facts a difference of opinion between me and Advani is being alleged ?
I have been hauled into this trial by fire. Let me be clear. My relationship with Advani is not one of merely politics. From the first time I entered Parliament L.K. Advani has been by my side. He has discharged his duty as Home Minister admirably. We may hold diverse opinions on different issues. But isnt that the essence of democracy ?
Mr. Speaker I Would like to make an appeal of the house, now that the decision time is upon us. I appeal of the house to pass judgement on my government’s performance. We have served this nation for 13 months and in these 13 months we have given a hint of what we can do if given the opportunity a full term of 5 years.
13 months are a short period of time, but we have left our foot prints in the sands time in an indelible manner to be preserved for posterity. Their consequences can be debated and criticized but can never be shrouded into irrelevance. By making bitter personal allegations you cannot deny us the credit of our accomplishments. The people of this nation have made it clear through opinion polls that they want this government to continue. There is no doubt on that fact. I am confident this House will decide in the favour of public opinion.
Many many thanks.
MR. SPEAKER: The result of the division is:
The motion was negatived.
MR. SPEAKER: The House stands adjourned till 11 a.m. on Monday, the 19th April, 1999.
The Lok Sabha then adjourned till Eleven of the Clock on
Monday, April 19, 1999/Chaitra 29, 1921 (Saka).