For the first time in weeks, the beleaguered Congress-led UPA breathed easy as its partners and supporters rallied in Lok Sabha to defeat Opposition-sponsored motions by a 146-227 margin and the AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu government removed the roadblocks for the Kudankulam nuclear project.
Till the victory in the Lok Sabha came on Monday, the UPA increasingly appeared isolated on issues ranging from the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and human rights violations of Lankan Tamils to the rail fare hike that cost Dinesh Trivedi his job.
Key UPA ally Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the two Uttar Pradesh rivals — the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) —worked with the government to vote out the BJP and the Left's three amendments to the presidential address on the NCTC.
It went well with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's assertion last week that his government had the numbers.
But before he got their support, the PM told Parliament that states would be consulted on NCTC on April 16 and that India was “inclined” to vote for a UN resolution against Lanka on war crimes to assuage the DMK. He also said Trivedi's resignation would be accepted.
Singh, however, acknowledged how "difficult decisions… are made more difficult by the fact that we are a coalition government".
Leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj had offered to withdraw her amendment if the government promised not to operationalise the NCTC till all apprehensions raised by the chief ministers were addressed, and not merely discussed.
No such assurance, however, was forthcoming. The Congress had done its homework to get its allies and supporters on board and — with Sonia Gandhi seen actively holding last-minute consultations to ensure a smooth sailing — was willing to demonstrate its numerical superiority in the Lok Sabha.
The TMC and BSP members walked out of the House just before voting on the NCTC was to take place.
The Samajwadi Party stayed back to vote with the government, satisfied with Singh's assurance that the "next steps" would only be taken after the April 16 consultations with the chief ministers.
The TMC that had been the loudest critic of the NCTC said it hadn't changed its stand.
"But we could not vote against the UPA on a BJP-sponsored motion," TMC leader Kalyan Banerjee said. Party chief Mamata Banerjee added the TMC had no intention of walking out of the alliance unless the UPA "humiliates" the party.
The Prime Minister last week insisted his government had the numbers, a remark that BJP leader Jaswant Singh cited minutes before the voting to take a pot-shot at the UPA.
"Time and again these dreams of certain people to come in through the back door without a democratic majority have been proved to be wrong," spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi later responded.