Social media and mainstream media are rife with the claim that slain gangster Atiq Ahmed, who was a Samajwadi Party MP from 2004 to 2008, supported the UPA when it went for a trust vote over India’s nuclear deal with the US in 2008. The viral claim further states that Ahmed’s vote had ‘saved the UPA government from collapse’.
The Press Trust of India (PTI) on April 16 published a report titled ‘How Atiq Ahmed’s key vote in 2008 helped save UPA govt, India’s nuke deal with US’. The report states that “six criminal politicians, including Atiq Ahmad who was shot dead Saturday, were furloughed from different jails in just 48 hours with little fanfare in 2008, with a book on ‘Baahubalis’ claiming their votes were crucial to save the embattled UPA government and India’s civil nuclear deal with the US.”
On April 17, Aaj Tak TV host Sudhir Chaudhury amplified the claim in his prime-time show ‘Black and White’.
At the 5:36 mark, he states that “In 2008, when the UPA government was facing a no-confidence motion, each vote of every MP became crucial for the government. Hence, the UPA government also contacted MPs who were imprisoned for serious crimes. And one of those MPs was Atiq Ahmed. At that time, Atiq Ahmed took a furlough, meaning he took a vacation of a few days from prison and cast his vote in the favour of the UPA government. This shows that at some point in time, Congress has also enjoyed Atiq Ahmed’s services to the party.”
Hindi Transcription: “वर्ष २००८ जब UPA की सर्कार को संसद में नो-कॉन्फिडेंस मोशन का सामना करना परा था, उस समय उसके लिए एक एक संसद का वोट बहुत ज़रूरी था। इसीलिए तब UPA की सर्कार ने ऐसे संसदो से भी बात की जो सांसद अपराधी थे और उस समय जेल में बंद थे; और उन संसदो में तब अतीक अहमद भी शामिल थे। उस समय अतीक अहमद फरलो लेकर यानि की जेल से कुछ दिनों का छुट्टी लेकर बकायदा संसद में आकर UPA के सर्कार के पक्ष में वोट डालने आया था, जिससे ये पता चलता हैं की कांग्रेस पार्टी नेभी एक समय में अतीक अहमद की सेवाओं का पूरा फायदा उठाया हैं और उसकी सेवाये ली हैं।”
The PTI article was picked up by various media outlets, including Deccan Herald, NDTV, The Economic Times, The Print, OpIndia, India Today, Aaj Tak, Amar Ujala, ABP Live, ABP Desam, Asianet News, TV9 Hindi, TV9 Marathi, Jansatta, Dainik Jagran and India.com.
It was also published in various Hindi newspapers.
DD News also reported the viral claim in the show ‘5 Ki Panchayat with Reema Parashar’, with the caption, “माफिया अतीक अहमद के वोट से बची थी UPA सरकार !”. (Translation: Mafia Atiq Ahmed’s vote had saved the UPA government). However, in the video, panellist Pramod Singh said that he didn’t check the parliament records and that he could not confirm whether Atiq Ahmed had voted in favour or against the UPA government in 2008.(Archive)
माफिया अतीक अहमद के वोट से बची थी UPA सरकार !
— डीडी न्यूज़ (@DDNewsHindi) April 20, 2023
To begin with, Alt News searched the parliament records of the confidence motion in Lok Sabha’s digital library. The search revealed a PDF transcript of the 2008 Parliament discussion under the title ‘Further discussion on the motion of confidence in the Council of Minister moved by Dr. Manmohan Singh on the 21st July, 2008’. The document provides a break-up of the trust vote.
Page 112 of the document enlists all the names of the Lok Sabha members under ‘Noes’, meaning those who voted against the motion. One can see Atiq’s name in this section, implying that he did not vote in the favour of the UPA government back in 2008.
Next, we performed a keyword search on Google. It led us to news reports from 2008 that stated that Atiq Ahmed had not voted for the UPA government. A report published by India Today in July 2008, says the Samajwadi Party expelled six MPs who had voted against the Congress-led UPA government during the confidence motion. The report says, “The MPs who are expelled from the party are Jai Prakash (Mohanlalganj), SP Singh Baghel (Jalesar), Raj Narain Budholia (Hamirpur), Afzal Ansari (Ghazipur), Ateeq Ahmed (Phulpur) and Munnawar Hussain (Muzaffarnagar).”
Rediff.com also published the same report of Atiq’s expulsion from the Samajwadi Party after he voted against the UPA government in the confidence motion in 2008.
PTI Acknowledges Error
PTI published another report on April 17, 2023, clarifying that “On Sunday, a PTI report quoted from a book — “Baahubalis of Indian Politics: From Bullet to Ballot” — which claimed that Ahmad “dutifully cast his precious vote, no doubt in favour of the beleaguered UPA”. “The claim, however, is erroneous, according to the Parliament records.” the report further added. Following this, some media outlets removed the misleading report from their respective websites.
Honest Mistake, Says Book Author
We noted that the PTI report cited the book, “Baahubalis of Indian Politics: From Bullet to Ballot” by Rajesh Singh (published by Rupa Publications), as its primary source of information.
In the eighth chapter of the book, which is titled ‘Don In, Don Outside: Ateeq Ahmed’, author Rajesh Singh writes that Ahmed had “saved the Manmohan Singh government from imminent collapse” in 2008 after the government’s decision to proceed with a civil nuclear deal with the USA. Singh adds that Ahmed “dutifully cast his precious vote, no doubt in favour of the beleaguered UPA”. The author did not cite any source for this information.
Alt News spoke to the author, Rajesh Singh. He said, “Atiq Ahmed did not vote in the favour of the UPA government. It was an honest mistake. I had assumed that he had voted in the favour, but it was a slip-up from my side.”
The 2008 Trust Vote in Parliament
On July 8, 2008, the Left Front withdrew its support from the Congress-led UPA coalition government over India’s nuclear deal with the USA. This necessitated a trust vote in the Parliament. After two days of debate, the UPA won the floor test with 275 votes in its favour and 256 against it.
The BBC reported that the confidence vote was so crucial for the UPA government that MPs were summoned from their sickbeds and even from prison cells to take part in the vote. The Mulayam Singh-led Samajwadi party decided to support the government. Hence, the party later expelled all six members (including Atiq Ahmed) who voted against the motion.
The Times of India published an article titled “Atiq Ahmed: A ‘shifty’ politician, ditched Mulayam Singh Yadav on Nuclear deal” which says that in 2008, “Atiq was an SP MP and seen close to Mulayam but defied the party whip to vote against the Manmohan Singh government at the centre during the confidence motion tabled against the Congress-led government on the issue of the nuclear deal with US on July 22, 2008.”
To sum up, several mainstream media outlets, including the PTI, misreported that then Samajwadi Party leader Atiq Ahmed had voted in the favour of the Congress-led UPA government back in 2008 to support India’s nuclear deal with the USA. Our fact check revealed that Atiq Ahmed had voted against UPA in 2008 defying his party’s whip, which resulted in his expulsion from the Mulayam Singh-led Samajwadi Party. The viral claim that Ahmed had ‘saved’ Manmohan Singh’s government in 2008 is baseless.
Abira Das is an intern at Alt News.
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