In a major relief to the government over the fiercely contested National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), three amendment motions moved by the opposition on the anti-terror intelligence hub were defeated in the Lok Sabha Monday.
The Trinamool Congress, a bitter critic of the NCTC but part of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), lent tacit support to the government in defeating the amendments after its MPs walked out of the house and didn’t participate in the voting. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs also walked out.
The amendments were moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) after Prime Manmohan Singh told the house that the proposed anti-terror agency was crucial in “dealing with terrorism and dealing with it effectively”.
Manmohan Singh was responding to the debate on the Motion of Thanks to President Pratibha Patil’s address.
The prime minister in his speech said consultations with state governments over the NCTC would continue and that the anti-terror agency would not be commissioned till a meeting was held with all chief ministers April 16.
Not impressed by Manmohan Singh’s assurances, BJP’s Sushma Swaraj, who is also leader of the opposition in the house, pressed for a vote on her amendment.
At least 141 members voted for the amendment and 226 voted against it. One member abstained.
The second amendment motion was moved by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). The motion by Basudeb Acharia of the CPI-M also met the same fate.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the ruling party in Odisha, moved the third motion which was also defeated.
Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been among the front runners along with her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik opposing the formation of the NCTC on the grounds that powers given to the agency would infring on the rights of state governments.
But by walking out during the NCTC vote, Trinamool MPs tried to kill two birds with one stone. They didn’t vote in favour of a policy they have ferociously opposed and also saved some embarrassment for the government it is part of by not voting against it.
The agency was supposed to be formed March 1 but this was delayed after all non-Congress states wrote to the prime minister opposing it.