On the eve of the trust vote that would make or break the UPA government, the ruling combine exuded confidence while the Opposition displayed a sense of resignation.
<b1>Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters he was "100 percent confident" of winning the trust vote on Tuesday. For her part, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi remarked: “I think we are winning… But one can never be sure."
Congress’s floor managers expect that the cross-voting and abstentions from the opposition camp may be as high as 10 even as BSP chief Mayawati can pull off some last-minute surprises to boost the Opposition’s tally.
"We were never in a minority. Even after the Left withdrew support, we had 276 members on our side. Today, I can confidently say that we are 280-plus," said Congress spokesman Veerappa Moily. RJD’s Lalu Yadav put the pro-deal count at over 290. "Just look around and you will see who has the winner’s swagger," he said.
Even after the JD-S and the RLD joined forces with Mayawati, TDP and the Left, Congress’s crisis managers haven’t given up hope on their support.
In the UPA camp, last-minute efforts to reach out to Ghazipur MP Afzal Ansari did not bear fruit. The SP rebel is cut up with his party and is also under pressure from Mayawati. However, other jailbirds, including Siwan MP Shahabuddin and Madhepura’s Pappu Yadav were spotted in Parliament conversing with a senior BJP leader. Later, Shahabuddin shared a snack with party chief Lalu Yadav.
The game has boiled down to minimising the number of MPs present and voting.
"There is an appearance fee and also a disappearance fee. This could well set up the anatomy of the vote," said a BJP leader, drawing an analogy from judiciary.
Akali chief Sukhbir Badal discounted all speculation to assert that his MPs will oppose the motion as the deal wasn't an issue in Punjab.
The BJD, too, doused speculation that their MPs may break ranks. "Politically what does the Congress have to offer to them?" asked Dhenkanal MP Tathagata Satpathy.
In private, NDA sources conceded that one Shiv Sena MP and two JD-U members were undecided and could also go the UPA way or resort to a no-show.
The emergence of the 'Bahenji brotherhood’ has left the BJP-led NDA camp anxious. But to boost numbers, the party even ferried some of its ailing MPs, including actor Dharmendra who took the long flight from Los Angeles under the supervision of two doctors.
However, two BJP votes were still doubtful: rebel Vadodara MP Somabhai Patel and the Chikmaglur member Srikantappa, who is suffering from lung cancer. In fact, Patel said on Monday night that he'd vote for the PM’s motion.
As every no-show counts in a tight race, the NDA’s losses were the government’s gain. Trinamool leader Mamata Bannerjee’s decision to abstain buoyed the UPA even as the National Conference, which had aligned with the UNPA until the SP bolted out, decided to back the trust vote. "We will vote for the government," said Baramulla MP Abdul Rashid Shaheen.
Flanked by Avtar Singh Badana and Jai Prakash, Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda said the Congress MPs in the state, barring Kuldeep Bishnoi, were united behind the deal. Almost as if contradicting Hooda’s statement, rebel MP Arvind Sharma met BSP chief Mayawati and said he will vote against the UPA.
Congress sources said that every party CM, including Maharashtra’s Vilasrao Deshmukh and Andhra Pradesh’s YS Rajashekhara Reddy, have been assigned specific tasks of keeping the flock together and breaching the Opposition camp.