From HT Archives: Atal steps down in 13 days, Deve Gowda steps in | Latest News India

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By Mahtab Ahmad

It was a day of hectic political developments, beginning with the stepping down of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and ending with the appointment of HD Deve Gowda as the 11th Prime Minister of India.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee after submitting his resignation as the Prime Minister to the President. (HT Archive)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee after submitting his resignation as the Prime Minister to the President. (HT Archive)

Vajpayee tendered his resignation on May 28, 1996, which was accepted by the President, even before the voting on the confidence motion could be taken up on the floor of the Lok Sabha. Deve Gowda first met the President with a set of 190 support letters. About an hour later, Deve Gowda, on summons from the Rashtrapati Bhawan, met the President for the second time when he was invited to form the government.

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Gowda will be sworn in on June 1 and has been asked to prove his majority by June 12.

Vajpayee resigned after the debate on the motion of confidence without facing the voting on the floor but vowing to go back to the people and return with an absolute majority.

The President, Shankar Dayal Sharma, accepted Vajpayee’s resignation and asked him to continue till alternative arrangements were made.

The government fell on the inauspicious thirteenth day in office after it had failed to muster support but had successfully spoken to its national constituency through the live national telecast of the two days proceedings of the Lok Sabha.

This was the shortest span of any government —the late Charan Singh remained in office for 171 days without seeking the confidence of the House while Chandra Shekhar’s rule as the eighth Prime Minister had lasted for 224 days. VP Singh’s Government lasted for 341 days.

The political situation after Vajpayee’s resignation seems to be returning to a state of fluidity in spite of the 14-party group United Front.

A section of the group’s MPs came out of the House shouting “Desk ka neta kaisa ho… Deve Gowda jaisa ho…” They were, however, confronted with another group which insisted on reiterating “Desh ka neta aisa ho… Mulayam Singh jaisa ho…”

Most of the partners of the United Front kept their fingers crossed hoping that it was enthusiasm rather than the first inkling of a power struggle even without power.

In a last-ditch effort to save his government, Vajpayee was assisted by his allies — the Akali Dal led by SS Barnala and the HVP who chose Jai Prakash to be its spokesman.

Vajpayee in his 90-minute address, a major part of which was taken by repeated interruptions, heckling and plain shouting and what anywhere else would be construed as misbehaviour, switched from emotion to anger and finally to the acceptance of the inevitable.

Vajpayee’s main thrust today was on:

— The fact that the BJP was willing for a government of consensus and was therefore ready to “freeze” its controversial pledges: the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 and the implementation of a uniform civil code. He added that it was the lack of a majority which had prompted the BJP from focussing on any controversial subjects.

— He accused the Opposition of a single point programme-removal of the BJP instead of a commitment to nation-building adding that this was reactionary and negative and the people would give a befitting reply.

— He asserted that the BJP stood by its pledge to serve the country and the people, but in a rare burst of anger he also said that in case the other parties decided to fight unfairly his would not hesitate to take the debate beyond the walls of Parliament House.

— He made a spirited defence of the RSS which had come under attack from the CPI leader, Indrajit Gupta, and JD leader Ram Vilas Paswan.

Vajpayee, in an attempt to win over the southern regional parties, gave a special word of thanks to the DMK leader in the House, Murasoli Maran, and quoted a poem from the Tamil poet Subramanium Bharati which said… “My mother has 30 crore faces but she has one heart…” and the attempted rendering in chaste Tamil drew the loudest applause from the DMK benches without any sign of support.

The Prime Minister’s speech was held up for nearly 45 minutes as an uproar was created by the Opposition and the Speaker ultimately allowed Vajpayee to quote from the report after stating that the member should authenticate it.

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