New Delhi: As political activities gathered momentum in the Capital with barely 48 hours to go for the crucial 22 July trust vote, the Congress-led government had more reasons to worry, with several fence-sitters announcing they will vote against the United Progressive Alliance, or UPA.
With the number of members of Parliament, or MPs, expected to vote against the confidence motion touching 270 in a lower house of 543, the UPA, according to a person close to the matter, who didn’t wish to be identified, is hoping to engineer abstentions to sail through the trust vote.
With several Sikh groups, religious and political, exerting pressure on Shiromani Akali Dal, or SAD’s eight MPs to abstain to save the government headed by the country’s first Sikh Prime Minister, the possibility of the ruling alliance managing a coup of sorts doesn’t appear remote, he added.
Late in the day, one Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, MP—Brij Bhushan Sharan —appeared to have switched ranks, joining the Samajwadi Party, or SP, that is backing the Congress on the trust vote. He was presented before reporters by SP general secretary Amar Singh, who claimed Sharan would vote for the Congress.
On a day of frenetic parleys and meetings, Rashtriya Lok Dal, or RLD, leader Ajit Singh, who was widely expected to back the UPA, backed out after a meeting with Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Bahujan Samaj Party, or BSP, chief Mayawati and declared his party, which has three seats in the Lok Sabha, would vote against the UPA.
The Congress responded to Singh’s decision with apparent resignation, saying it hadn’t counted on him much. “He was negotiating with each and everybody,” said party spokesman M. Veerappa Moily.
Former prime minister and Janata Dal (Secular), or JD(S), leader H.D. Deve Gowda, too, decided to vote against the government after meeting Mayawati, ending days of speculation which way his party, with three MPs, would go.
Sunday also saw a coming together of like-minded parties: the Left, BSP, JD(S) and RLD. After their meeting, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, who addressed the media along with Mayawati and Telugu Desam leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, said, “We will all work to defeat the government on 22 July as we don’t want it to be in power any more.”
Offering some consolation to the ruling alliance, Shibu Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, or JMM, which has five MPs, on Sunday pledged support to the government. After Soren’s meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the JMM chief said he expected to return to the Union cabinet as coal minister.
The UPA also managed to secure the backing of MP Dayanidhi Maran, a former Union minister and a suspended member of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, or DMK, who had so far maintained he would abstain from voting. “I will abide by the decision of the party on whose ticket I was elected to Lok Sabha,” Maran said. The DMK is a part of the UPA.
The lone MP of Majlis-e Ittehadul Muslimeen, Asaduddin Owaisi, said he would vote in favour of the UPA.
SP chief Mulayam Singh said there was no split in his party and only those who had already left would vote against the government. Four of SP’s MPs have said they will vote against the Congress in the trust vote.
Meanwhile, the person quoted earlier said Mayawati has incurred the wrath of the ruling party by indulging in “horse-trading”, and indicated there could be a “backlash”, directed largely against her, if it wins the trust vote.
Bajinder Pal Singh and PTI contributed to this story.