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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
India no-confidence vote fails
PM Vajpayee (left) and Defence Minister Fernandes
Vajpayee (L) and Fernandes are in the spotlight
The lower house of the Indian parliament has rejected an opposition motion of no-confidence in the government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

"Subject to correction, the result of the voting is 'ayes' 186, 'nos' 312. 'Nos' have it," the speaker of the lower house of parliament Manohar Joshi said, just before midnight on Tuesday.

Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who called for the vote, said the motion was born out of real concern for the direction the country was taking.

Her party said it intended to force the government to address what the opposition calls corrupt arms deals.

There is no question of breaking up the government because it won't happen
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee

The motion had been expected to fail because the ruling National Democratic Alliance has a comfortable majority.

During his reply Prime Minister Vajpayee asked whether the no-confidence motion had been necessary.

"I can't understand what is the pressing concern now," he said. "There is no question of breaking up the government because it won't happen. Perhaps, the grapes are sour for the opposition."

Indian newspapers have described the debate as a "curtain raiser" to key state elections due later this year.

Prime Minister Vajpayee's 24-party National Democratic Alliance has 323 MPs in the 543-seat lower house while the opposition Congress and its allies have 140 members.

Corruption charges

The main target of Congress is Defence Minister George Fernandes, whom they accuse of trying to cover up a corrupt arms deal.

The scandal broke out in 2001, when the Indian internet news site Tehelka.com taped secret video footage of politicians, bureaucrats and army officers apparently taking money in connection with a fake defence deal.

The then president of the ruling BJP, Bangaru Laxman, and four senior defence officials were forced to resign over the scandal.

Mr Fernandes also resigned but subsequently rejoined the government.

During the no-confidence vote, which lasted a day and a half, opposition leaders raised other issues ranging from the economy's performance to foreign policy.

Prime Minister Vajpayee asked them: "You have also alleged that we have mortgaged our foreign policy to another powerful nation. To whom? Is India such a poor and weak country? We have never come under pressure from the United States."

Ms Gandhi responded, asking: "If it is not so, then why did the government take such a long time to condemn the attack on Iraq and on taking a decision of not sending Indian troops to Iraq [for peacekeeping operations]."


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Adam Mynott in Delhi
"Gandhi said the administration had failed in every aspect of government"



SEE ALSO:
Congress looks for poll partners
09 Jul 03  |  South Asia
BJP ponders early polls
17 Jun 03  |  South Asia
Indian website defends its record
27 Jun 02  |  South Asia
Heads roll in India bribery scandal
14 Mar 01  |  South Asia
The Tehelka tapes
14 Mar 01  |  South Asia


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