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Congress puts up brave front amid rebel trouble in SP

Congress puts up brave front amid rebel trouble in SP
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First Published: Fri, Jul 18 2008. 11 15 PM IST

Updated: Fri, Jul 18 2008. 11 15 PM IST
New Delhi: Just four days ahead of the crucial trust vote in Parliament that would decide the fate of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, the Congress party that leads it said on Friday that more than 280 members of the Lok Sabha supports the alliance.
(UPA FLOOR SUPPORT TRACKER) However, the Samajwadi Party, or SP, whose backing is crucial for the government to win the vote, appeared a divided house and the Congress was hard put to give a break-up of the MPs backing the alliance. News from Haryana wasn’t good with one lawmaker turning rebel. While Jharkhand Mukti Morcha pledged support to opposition National Democratic Alliance, or NDA, former prime minister Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular) is yet to announce its decision.
UPA has majority: Moily
Head of the media cell at the Congress party, M. Veerappa Moily, said on Friday the government would sail through the trust vote without problems. “We are 280-plus (seats strong). This is our firm and confident figure,” he said.
But, Moily refused to give a break-up of the 280-plus figure saying, “I cannot reveal anything now, opposition vultures are circling overhead.” He also accused the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties of horse trading.
SP’s poor show of strength
Only 16 of the party’s 37 MPs attended a meeting of the Samajwadi Party’s lawmakers on Friday. Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav sought to play down the absence of MPs, saying 12 members of the party could not attend the meeting due to various reasons.
The party issued a three-line whip asking its members to be present in the Lok Sabha on 21 and 22 July, and vote in favour of the government. However, one of the absentee MPs, Munnawar Hassan, said he would defy the party whip and vote against the government. He said he has the backing of seven more MPs.
Raj Babbar and Beni Prasad Verma, who are suspended from the party, are expected to vote for the UPA.
Gowda to meet PM today
Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda said on Friday he would call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday in Delhi to discuss the issue. “The party authorized me to go to Delhi and take a final decision. We will consult our political affairs committee and decide,” he said.
The former prime minister said the party MP from Kerala, M.P. Veerendra Kumar, who had distanced himself from the JD(S) in 2006 when it formed a coalition government with the BJP in Karnataka, will return to the “parent” party.
Interestingly, Kumar has been maintaining he will vote against the government. “Deve Gowda called me up and said I should lead the party in the trust vote since I am technically the party leader in Parliament. Since he knows I am voting against the UPA and he has asked me to come back to party, it is obvious he will also vote against the government,” Kumar told Mint.
JD(S) has three MPs in Lok Sabha including Gowda, besides Kumar and Shivanna.
Speaker excluded
A day before the meeting of the central committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the party decided on Friday to exclude Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from the whip it has issued to its MPs to vote against the UPA in the trust vote on 22 July.
Chatterjee’s reluctance to step down as Speaker is expected to feature in the deliberations of the party’s 87-member highest decision-making body.
Bishnoi is still MP
Though Kuldeep Bishnoi had said he had faxed a letter resigning as Congress party MP from the the lower House in December, Lok Sabha secretariat officials have a different story to tell.
The so-called “fax” he said to have sent to the Lok Sabha never reached them.
A Lok Sabha secretariat official, who did not wish to be identified, said, “We did get a letter from Bishnoi to the effect that he had faxed his resignation, but we never received any such fax.”
This means, as he has announced, the son of former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal is likely to vote against the UPA in the trust vote.
Meanwhile, the Congress MP from Haryana’s Karnal, Arvind Sharma, has attacked the party for “targeting” Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati and indicated that he may vote against the UPA.
JMM to vote for UPA
Shiboo Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) announced on Friday its decision to vote for the UPA. According to chief whip Tekal Mahto, the party with five crucial Lok Sabha seats will vote for the government.
MDMK against govt
With two dissident MPs likely to take a different line, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or MDMK, decided on Friday to issue a whip to its four MPs to vote against the government in the trust vote.
Meanwhile, the Siromani Akali Dal issued a whip to its eight MPs to vote against the UPA. Its general secretary and party’s parliamentary board chairman Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa said the party issued the whip to avoid any cross-voting by Akali MPs.
Ashish Sharma, K.P. Narayana Kumar, and PTI also contributed to this story.
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First Published: Fri, Jul 18 2008. 11 15 PM IST