Several media organisations claimed that recently deceased gangster-turned-politician Atiq Ahmed's vote "saved" the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The claim alleges that Ahmed’s responsible for saving Manmohan Singh's UPA government in Parliament in 2008.
On April 16, 2023, Atiq Ahmed and his brother Ashraf Ahmed were in an interaction with the media when three assailants opened fire at them in Uttar Pradesh's Prayagraj. Atiq and Ashraf were being transported for medical examination on Saturday evening when three shooters, posing as media persons, shot them dead. The assassins, identified as Sunny Singh, Lavlesh Tiwari, and Arun Maurya, were arrested immediately.
The news agency Press Trust of India was the first to publish an article on April 16, 2023, titled, ‘How Atiq Ahmad's key vote in 2008 helped save UPA govt, India's nuke deal with the US’. The PTI report is based on the book "Baahubalis of Indian Politics: From Bullet to Balot" by Rajesh Singh.
PTI reported that the Singh-led government furloughed "six of the nation's most prominent suspected lawbreakers" to support the UPA government in a trust vote in July 2008.
“The Opposition had brought a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh dispensation, and at stake was his United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the nuclear deal. Among these six legislators, who collectively had over 100 criminal cases against their names, was the then Samajwadi Party's Lok Sabha MP Atiq Ahmad, who represented Allahabad's (now Prayagraj) Phulpur constituency,” the PTI report noted.
Media outlets such as NDTV, Economic Times, India Today, Aaj Tak, TV9 Hindi, and Jansatta circulated this news while quoting PTI.
We conducted a keyword search with the terms ‘Atiq Ahmed’ and ‘UPA Government’ and came across a tweet uploaded by journalist Aarish Chhabra on April 17, 2023. The tweet seeks to debunk the PTI report while providing the facts of the matter.
In his Twitter thread, Chhabra writes, “Atiq Ahmed was given a furlough from jail to cast his vote in July 2008, when the Left withdrew support to UPA over the US nuke deal; Manmohan Singh was staring at a fall. Samajwadi Party came to his rescue, and Atiq was SP's MP -- but Atiq did not vote for the UPA.”
We then conducted a keyword search to uncover whether there was a trust vote for the UPA government in July 2008. This threw up a BBC report published on July 2008, titled, ‘India left ends coalition support’. The Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement was signed on 10 October 2008.
The BBC report noted that on July 8, 2008, communist parties in India announced that they would be withdrawing support for the UPA coalition over a controversial civilian nuclear deal with the United States.These parties comprised of Communist Part of India, Communist Part of India (Marxist), All India Forward Bloc, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
Underlining the reasons behind the removal of the support, the BBC report says, “The move came after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government would press ahead with the deal. Left-wing parties fear the deal could open Indian foreign policy to too much US influence. The government says it is needed to meet soaring energy demands.”
This move by the Communist parties left the UPA 44 seats short of the required 272 mark needed for a majority in the Lok Sabha. The Communist parties had 59 members in India's lower house of parliament, as per the BBC report.
Even MPs who were ill and in prison were called on to take part in the vote, as per the BBC. The Congress-led government called on the then Mulayam Singh-led Samajwadi Party for the confidence motion. The UPA government managed to secure 275 votes, against 256 votes, 10 MPs abstained from voting, on July 22, 2008.
We then looked for the records of this vote in Lok Sabha’s Digital Library and came across a result titled ‘Further discussion on the motion of confidence in the Council of Minister moved by Dr.Manmohan Singh on the 21st July, 2008.’ uploaded on July 22, 2008.
The document shows a transcript of the discussion in Parliament and the voting breakdown. The document notes that Atiq Ahmed voted against the UPA government with his name listed under the 'Noes', indicating those who voted against the coalition.
We also came across a news report by Indian Express dated July 25, 2008, titled, ‘SP expels 6 MPs for defying party whip on trust vote’. The Indian Express notes that the Samajwadi Party expelled six members for voting against the UPA government in the trust vote.
The members expelled were Jai Prakash (Mohanlalganj), S P Singh Baghel (Jalesar), Raj Narain Budholia (Hamirpur), Afzal Ansari (Ghazipur), Ateq Ahmed (Phulpur) and Munawwar Hasan (Muzaffarnagar), as per the Indian Express report.
We found that the viral claim cirucalted by media outlets is misleading. While Atiq Ahmed did participate in the the trust vote held by the UPA Government in 2008, he did not vote in favour of the coalition. Ahmed was expelled from the Samajwadi Party after his vote against the UPA Government.
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