Wednesday, July 14, 2010




By R Rajagopalan
NEW DELHI: The Congress is bracing up to defeat any no-confidence motion that the Opposition may bring in the Lok Sabha in the ensuing monsoon session from July 26 as the UPA-II government is short of 13 votes for the half mark in the House to sail through.

Concerned over the main opposition Bhartiya Janata Party and the Left Parties coming together to organise an nationwide strike over the fuel price hike, the Congress core group meeting last week worked out a strategy to overcome a similar gang-up in the House that seems possible.

As part of the strategy, a team of the party leaders have been briefed to get in touch with Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik whose Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has 14 members in the House, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha whose AIADMK has 9 members as also smaller parties to ensure the government musters enough numbers to ward off any threat from a no-confidence motion.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad are coordinating contacts with various parties. Mukherjee is reported to have dropped hints to the MPs of both BJD and AIADMK who keep calling on him for some or the other work.

The Congress has 208 members in the Lok Sabha while its ruling allies have another 51 (Trinamul Congress 19, DMK 18, NCP 9, NC 3 and Muslim League 2). The party sources said the government enjoys support of Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) of Ajit Singh, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad and some other smaller parties to have a majority but yet the leadership felt these are slippery allies and hence better that it musters all possible additional support to meet any eventuality.

The urgency to get in touch with leaders and MPs of various parties for a possible support was felt also in view of the BJP and Left wanting to encash the price rise issue. The Congress sources said the government has to prepare to meet any attempt by the BJP to repeat the drama that the Congress enacted in the Karnataka assembly.

They said the core group felt the party must work out a long-term strategy on the floor management in the Lok Sabha for the rest of the government's innings and not look for a temporary arrangement just in the monsoon session.

As part of the strategy, the Congress leaders have started establishing contacts with leaders and MPs  of BJD and AIADMK, though in their personal capacity to ensure the exercise does not send the wrong signal of the government's weakness.

The AIADMK cannot openly support the government because its rival DMK is one of the ruling allies and hence the Congress leaders are suggesting that its MPs can stage a walkout and abstain at the time of voting as that would show them protesting and yet helping the government escape any possible defeat. A similar proposal has been sounded to Navin Patnaik, the sources said.

These two parties together have 23 MPs and the government will be in safe zone if they are not voting in support of the no-confidence motion. The government, however, will be still on the edge and hence the Congress leadership wants maximising support of all possible small parties for the sake of safety.

The small parties on which the Congress is counting include RLD and RJD as also JD-7 (3 MPs), JMM (2), and a single-member parties like Haryana Janhit Congress of Bhajan Lal, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha of Babulal Marandi, Sikkim Democratic Front, Kerala Congres, Swabhimani Paksha of Raju Shetty, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi of Baliram Jadhav and VCK.

Sources said Jayalalitha and Patnaik approached through their MPs did not negative the proposal to help in stability of the government. A senior minister reported back to the Congress President that Jayalalitha sees the proposal as a signal to get closer to the Congress.


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