New Delhi: The battle for numbers that will decide the fate of the UPA government in the trust vote today entered the last lap with its hopes hinging on abstentions and last minute defections from rival camps.
Hours before a cliff hanger trust vote, there was good tidings for the Congress-led UPA when the two-member National Conference announced it will vote for the ruling coalition while a lone Mizo National Front MP Vanlalzawma said he will abstain.
Ending suspense on which way the NC will go, party chief Omar Abdullah said this morning his party will vote in favour of the UPA government.
As the groupings for and against the government tried to rustle up the numbers, fencesitters again held centre stage amid reports that 8-10 NDA MPs may either abstain or violate party whips that will help the ruling coalition pull through.
The target of 271 for getting the majority will come down in the event of abstentions, setting the stage for a photo finish in which the Manmohan Singh government may just scrape through.
Speaker Somnath Chatterjee also announced that six MPs have sought leave of absence (meaning they will abstain) which has been granted. This will bring down the target for the government to sail through. The party affiliations of the abstaining MPs were however not disclosed.
Possibly sniffing a triumph, a more confident Manmohan Singh flashed another victory sign and thumbs up as he strode confidently into the Lok Sabha this morning to attend the proceedings.
The UPA however was not without any anxious moments when Samajwadi party leader Amar Singh alleged that six party MPs were being forcibly kept by BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati in the UP Bhavan here ahead of the trust vote. The Samajwadi has a strength of 38 MPs that will largely help the government to sail through.
Congress crisis managers are claiming they have the assured support of 272 to 276 MPs in the run up to the trust vote dogged by allegations and counter allegations of horse trading.
Not wanting to lose any votes by default, BJP has managed to bring four out of its five ailing MPs to the national capital for the crucial trust vote while efforts were on to airlift the fifth Lok Sabha member from a Mumbai hospital.
The last to arrive in the city was Ramesh Chavan, an MP from Maharasthra, who was airlifted last night.
“Chavan has arrived safely in the capital last night and filmstar Dharmendra, the Bikaner MP, is already here,” party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy told PTI.
While senior leader and former prime minister A B Vajpayee is slated to attend the special session to cast his vote, party MP from Hathris, Kishanlal Diler is under medical supervision in Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, in close proximity to the Parliament.
Sources said the fifth MP Mahesh Chandra Kanoria is still in a Mumbai hospital’s a post-operative ward.
“An air ambulance is stationed at the Mumbai airport. We are waiting for the doctor’s permission in case of Kanoria,” sources said.