BJP leader L.K. Advani sparked a major row in the Lok Sabha Wednesday with his description of the UPA-II government as “illegitimate”, a remark he later clarified as referring to the 2008 parliament trust vote. It got the ruling benches, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, highly agitated and and moved Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to term it “disgraceful”.
Advani, who opened the debate on the adjournment motion on the Assam violence, said the United Progressive Alliance (IPA)-I government was legitimate, but UPA-II was not, adding that crores of rupees had been involved. He later clarified that he was referring to the 2008 parliament trust vote and not the 2009 general election, but it had the Congress members on their feet, demanding that the remark be taken back.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed Advani’s remark “disgraceful” and “unfortunate”.
Gandhi, wearing a light green sari, gesticulated angrily and was seen and heard asking Advani to take back his remarks.
Gandhi, usually a calm participator of Lok Sabha proceedings, was also seen egging on her party MPs to protest Advani’s comments.
When Advani tried to clarify that it referred to the 2008 trust vote, Gandhi was also heard shouting “No, no” and asking that he withdraw his comments.
Advani’s remark that came towards the end of his speech, drowned the portent of what he had said on the Assam violence.
Asked to withdraw the words by the speaker, Advani said he had withdrawn the words but not with reference to the 2008 trust vote.
The Congress, hitting back, said that Advani was still “fighting” the 2008 no-confidence motion “in his mind”.
“Advani ji continues to fight the no-confidence motion of 2008 in his mind,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters outside parliament.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) -1 (2004-09) survived the trust vote, but not before three BJP MPs flashed money in the Lok Sabha, saying the government had tried to bribe them to vote in favour of them.
The protests led to the house being adjourned till 2 p.m.
Advani termed the violence in Assam as “unprecedented” and said the central government was to blame for it over the influx of Bangladeshi nationals across the porous border.
The BJP leader, who had visited relief camps in Kokrajhar, said it had displaced 3-4 lakh people and made the people of Assam “refugees in their own state”.
He said the violence should not be taken as an ethnic or communal issue, but it was due to the influx of refugees from Bangladesh.
“..The root of the problem is the infiltration taking place from Bangladesh for many years .. It is a problem not just for Assam, but for the whole of India, this should be recognized,” he said.
Advani said if steps are not taken to discern between the voters who are Indian citizens and the “doubtful voters” then the situation can explode again.
“The infiltration from Bangladesh is a very serious issue and the centre has to answer for it,” he added.
He referred to the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983 to say that the apex court had struck down the act in 2005 terming illegal migration as “foreign aggression”.
By not adhering to the Supreme Court direction the government is doing great harm to the country, he said.
“You are allowing this kind of foreign aggression. It is the duty of the government to stop this foreign aggression, and infiltration is foreign aggression. It is a failure of the central government,” Advani said, addressing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was present in the house.
Over 70 people were killed and over two lakh people displaced in Assam following violence between Bodo tribals and Bengali speaking Muslims, said to be Bangladeshis.