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The South Asian Insider

When Nehru faced India's first no-confidence motion over 1962 China war

India's first no-confidence motion saw a debate of over 21 hours spread across four days. The motion was moved by Congress rebel Acharya JB Kripalani against former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In 'History of It' we take a look at why it was moved and how Nehru defended his government.

(News Agency)-It was 1963. After reigning supreme and unchallenged for 16 years, India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, faced his biggest test -- a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. The motion, moved by Congress rebel, Acharya JB Kripalani, saw a debate that lasted 21 hours and 33 minutes, spanning four days.
That was the first no-confidence motion in India's history. India has seen 27 no-confidence motions since then.
Again, nearly 60 years after the first one, another government at the Centre faces a no-confidence motion. Nehru's own party, the Congress, part of the Opposition bloc -- INDIA, has moved a no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
But what is a no-confidence motion? In short, it allows the Opposition to challenge the government's majority on the floor of the Lok Sabha, and if the motion is passed, the government of the day has to resign.
When the motion is accepted by the Lok Sabha Speaker, it allows a debate between the Opposition and the treasury benches. In the debate, the MPs supporting the motion highlight the government's shortcomings and the treasury benches respond to the questions raised.
Let's go back in time and see how, and why, the first no-confidence motion was moved.
The border dispute with China, which led to war and a humiliating defeat for India in 1962, was the lowest point in Jawaharlal Nehru's political career. It caused him a certain loss of face in the international arena and undermined his political grip at home. The Congress bore the brunt of Nehru's shaken image as the party was defeated in a series of important by-elections.
These defeats allowed Opposition stalwarts Minoo Masani, Acharya JB Kripalani and Ram Manohar Lohia an entry into Parliament. And in no time, they did what was unthinkable at one point -- challenge Nehru and his government.
Acharya JB Kripalani moved the no-confidence motion against the Jawaharlal Nehru government on August 19, 1963. At that time, the Rules of the Lok Sabha provided that a no-confidence motion could be moved with the support of 30 MPs. Now, the support of 50 MPs is required.
Moving the motion, Kripalani referred to the Chinese aggression and charged that the government, which had always claimed that the armed forces of the country were sufficiently strong to meet any aggression, was not vigilant.
According to GC Malhotra's book 'Cabinet Responsibility to Legislature: Motions of Confidence and No-Confidence in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures', Kripalani said that "military decisions were taken in the capital without consulting field officers in NEFA (North East Frontier Agency). There was no need to wait for negotiations with the Chinese and India should be prepared both physically and psychologically for driving the aggressor out".
Kripalani, who bitterly opposed the Panchsheel agreement between India and