The government’s trial of strength in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, on the cut motion tabled by the opposition, turned out to be an anti-climax. With some ‘frenemies’ — enemies turned temporary friends — supporting the ruling coalition and some abstaining from voting, what should have been a close contest ended in a comfortable victory for the UPA.
With Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — which has lambasted the Congress repeatedly in the past — opposing the cut motion along with the government, and the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, equally vocal critics in the past, walking out of the House and thus abstaining from voting, the UPA’s continuance in office was assured.
Indeed, the voting indicated the possibility of new equations emerging in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the strongholds of the BSP, SP and RJD.
Another surprise was Shibu Soren’s vote for the government. Though chief minister of Jharkhand, he has not yet resigned his Lok Sabha seat. But his government runs on BJP support. The BJP was livid.
With some strategic planning by Finance Minister Pranab Mukhejee, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel, and two Parliamentary Affairs Ministers, Pawan Bansa and Prthviraj Chavan, the government’s floor managers chipped away whatever numbers the Opposition had managed to gather.
A walk out by the Samajwadi Party and RJD together accounting for 25, and 21 BSP members voting with treasury benches, ensured a smooth sailing for the government.
BSP supremo and UP Chief Minister Mayawati provided the big game changer early in the day. She announced her party's support for the government to keep "communal forces" at bay at the Centre.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RJD’s Lalu Prasad Yadav argued similarly before walking out of the House, ahead of the voting. Even the three-member Janata Dal (Secular) led by Deve Gowda walked backed the government by staying away from the House altogether.
The cut motion moved by CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta opposing the government’s decision to hike prices of petroleum products was defeated by a margin of 88 votes.
Earlier, another cut motion of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was defeated 162-246 in a division.
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley alleged a government ploy of "misusing" the CBI as a political instrument of keeping the Damocle's sword on "vulnerable" opposition leaders.
There was speculation that after the Rajya Sabha passed the women’s bill, the SP and the RJD had talked to Congress leaders, saying they would back the government if the women’s quota bill was kept pending.