Congress clashes with BJP, Left in acrimonious debate

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New Delhi, Jul 21 (UNI) The debate in the Lok Sabha on the Confidence Motion moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today proceeded on expected lines with the ruling alliance and the Opposition often trading charges against each other, even as Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee claimed that the Government has the support of 276 members.

The debate was not without acrimony leading to two adjournments and some scuffle, which often compelled Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to admonish the members and remind them that they must maintain the decorum of the House as the nation was watching them with keen interest.

Immediately after the Prime Minister moved the one-line motion that the House expresses confidence in the Council of Ministers, Leader of the Opposition L K Advani launched a scathing attack on the UPA government for hurrying through the Indo-US nuclear deal without evolving a consensus on the issue and its failure on various fronts, including the spiralling prices and unabated terrorism in various parts of the country.

Mr Advani said the BJP was not opposed to either nuclear energy or a closer and strategic relations with the United States. But he alleged that the deal would make India an "unequal" partner and if the BJP was voted to power, it would re-negotiate the nuclear deal between two equal partners.

The BJP stalwart questioned the secular credentials of the ruling alliance, saying that it should not put the Hindus at a disadvantage.

The Prime Minister, in his five-minute introductory remarks, said the trust vote was not only on the deal, but also on the policies and performance of the UPA government. He maintained the deal was squarely in the interests of the nation.

Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said it was disparaging that the Opposition leaders and the Left parties had questioned the integrity of the Prime Minister, who was above board.

Throughout the debate, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Dr Singh and his cabinet colleagues as well as senior members of the BJP remained glued to their seats.

The Left leaders, including Mohammad Salim (CPM)and Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, accused the government of bulldozing the deal and betraying the supporting parties on the issue. Mr Dasgupta said that most of the suggestions of the Left had often been ignored and cited the petrol price hike as an instance.

Mr Dasgupta said it was with a heavy heart that the Left had to part ways with the UPA even though it was responsible for putting it in the ruling saddle.

The Speaker conducted the proceedings in his usual manner and kept the guessing game on as to whether he would obey the diktats from the party by resigning or defy it.

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