India's Parliament rejects no confidence against motion

Indians watch television showing Congress party President Rahul Gandhi hug Prime Minister Narendra Modi during parliament session, at an electronics shop in Jammu, India, Friday, July 20, 2018. Gandhi accused the government of failing to live up to its promises as Parliament began debating a no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against Modi's government. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi accused the government of failing to live up to its promises as the Indian Parliament on Friday debated and defeated a no-confidence motion moved by the opposition against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government.

The motion was defeated by 325-126 votes by the lawmakers.

Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, accused the government of creating only 400,000 new jobs against the 20 million promised in a year. He accused Modi of favoring big business houses in defense and business deals at the expense of poor people.

That angered lawmakers in Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, leading the speaker to briefly adjourn the house proceedings to cool tempers. Gandhi later resumed his speech and at the end of it unexpectedly walked to where Modi was sitting and shook hands and hugged him.

Modi in his speech later had a dig at Gandhi's gesture, accusing him of trying to unseat him as the prime minister.

Seema Mustafa, a political analyst, said Rahul Gandhi's hugging of Modi was a reminder to him that he was in the habit of embracing "reluctant and willing leaders across the world  and today he was caught off guard" by Gandhi.

Modi said that the opposition knew that it didn't have enough support to defeat his government. "It misused the provision to destabilize his government," he said.

Modi said his economic policies have lifted 50 million people out of poverty levels of less than $2 income a day in the past four years. India has risen to be the sixth major economy in the world and was heading toward a $5 trillion economy.

The opposition apparently decided to test the strength of Modi's government following Modi's estrangement with some of his allies. Two of them, Shiv Sena and Biju Janata Dal, decided to abstain from voting to express their unhappiness with Modi's policies.

Opposition leaders, however, hope to reap political gains ahead of national elections early next year. They also accuse the government of failing to check rising violence against women, minority Muslims and Dalits.

Modi rejected the opposition charge and said the government was taking steps to protect all sections of the society.

Gandhi accused the Modi government of buying 36 Rafael fighter aircraft from France at a highly inflated price - nearly triple the price being negotiated when Congress was in power before Modi became prime minister in 2014. Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman immediately refuted his claim.

Gandhi asked the government to reveal the price of the Rafael aircraft deal, claiming that French President Emmanuel Macron told him in March the purchasing agreement had no secrecy clause.

The French Embassy in New Delhi immediately issued a statement saying that a security agreement bound the two countries to protect classified information that could impact the defense capabilities of either.

Modi in his speech accused Gandhi of "trampling upon the truth to mislead the nation on security-related issues." He didn't go into details.

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani accused Gandhi of indulging in rhetoric and asked him back up his accusations with proof. Another minister, Kiran Rijijju, dismissed Gandhi's speech as "a political stunt."

As parliament debated the no-confidence motion, farmers marched in the Indian capital demanding loan waivers and fair prices for their produce and other government help as India's agriculture sector struggles from years of declining earnings.