The ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh survived the second no-confidence motion in 16 months early Saturday thanks to a divided opposition. But the result proved the government was technically in a minority.
With the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) remaining neutral and as many as 27 members abstaining, only 58 legislators voted for the motion moved by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Two members were not allowed to vote by the speaker.
In a house with an effective strength of 293 (including a nominated member), 142 members opposed the motion. Thus the Congress has technically been reduced to a minority by not reaching even the half-way mark.
The actual strength of the assembly is 295.
The voting which took place around 1 a.m. Saturday after a 15-hour acrimonious debate saw nine legislators of Congress party and seven of TDP violating the party whip and support the motion.
As these legislators switched loyalties to YSR Congress, the strength of the Congress came down from 155 to 146 (four of them could not attend the assembly for various reasons) and TDP's tally shrunk from 85 to 79.
Opposition leader and TDP chief N. Chandrababu was among the 15 TDP members not present in the house.
The TRS (17), YSR Congress (17), Communist Party of India (4), Bharatiya Janata Party (3), Communist Party of India-Marxist (1) and an independent besides 15 rebels of the Congress and TDP voted for the motion.
The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (7), which withdrew support to the government a few months ago, also stayed away from voting on the ground it can't sail with the BJP.
Claiming moral victory, TRS and YSR Congress alleged that the TDP had colluded with Congress.
"This government has been reduced to a minority and hence has no moral right to continue in power," said TRS leader Harish Rao.
"The motion has exposed the TDP, which colluded with Congress to save the government," said YSR Congress leader B. Karunakar Reddy.
Earlier, replying to the debate, Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy alleged that the two opposition parties moved the no-confidence motion due to their fear of losing the ensuing local body elections.
He claimed that Congress would emerge stronger and would bag more seats in the 2014 general election.
TDP decided to remain neutral, saying it can't support the motion moved by TRS and YSR Congress to push their own agenda.
Both TRS and YSR Congress had supported a no-trust motion moved by TDP in December 2011. The same was defeated by 160 to 122 votes.