In a change of strategy, the Congress-led UPA is banking on abstentions rather than affirmative support for the July 22 confidence vote.
The gameplan seems motivated by the perceived chinks in anti-Congress formations on the desirability of the nuclear deal.
The UPA’s crisis managers want to cash in on the conflict of perception on the deal among eight Akali Dal members not bound by a party whip, so far.
Akali leadership has announced that they will vote with the NDA. But reports say the Akalis are under pressure from the expatriate Sikh community that favours the deal and the continuation of the Sikh PM.
So far, Parkash Singh Badal has played down the need to barricade his party MPs. And the Congress is hoping he doesn’t change his mind.
Peeved at not being re-inducted into the Manmohan Cabinet, JMM patron Shibu Soren has reportedly been offered chief ministership of Jharkhand and two junior slots at the Centre. Alternatively, he can have a Cabinet berth and an MoS at the Centre.
Sources said the Congress is also working on support or abstentions by a couple of BJD members who do not get along with Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik. A similar exercise is focused on individual BJP MPs.
These include those pitted against chief ministers and state party leaders. As a counter NDA measure, Patnaik is trying to influence one of JMM’s five MPs, who hails from Orissa.
The NDA is also seeking to augment numbers to bring down the Manmohan Singh government. The strategy was given final touches at a meeting of NDA CMs convened by BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani.
The tentative UPA count includes 35 firm SP votes with three Members prone to BSP overtures. H D Deve Gowda’s JD(S) hasn’t revealed its hand yet.
The Opposition, too, is trying to win over the weak links in the Congress ranks. “But we are talking to all our MPs individually to keep our flock together,’’ said a Congress leader, who dismissed speculation that Karnataka MPs R L Jalappa or Ambareesh could switch loyalties.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi claimed that all Congress-UPA MPs were ``intact.’’ To ensure an informal headcount, all Congress MPs and CMs will be in Delhi on July 19 to interact with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Potential allies like the RLD, if they come on board, may also attend the dinner hosted by PM Manmohan Singh for UPA MPs on July 20.