Ten abstentions and a few affirmative votes from other parties helped the UPA establish a convincing majority in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. With 275 votes in its kitty, the ruling combine crossed the magic 272 figure in the 541-member House, shutting out criticism of being a minority government.
It was the Congress-led government’s ability to make inroads into non-UPA formations that proved to be its strength and the cause that sullied the vote. The fly in the ointment was the “note scam” that unfolded in the middle of the trust vote debate.
But the broad picture first. The ruling coalition eventually was just one vote short of the 276 majority, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee claimed while refuting LK Advani’s charge that the government approached the IAEA when it was in a minority after withdrawal of support by the Left.
The 10 abstentions that widened the gap between the UPA (275) and non-UPA ranks (256) included BJP MPs Chandrabhan Singh (MP), Manorama Madhavaraj (Karnataka), Kishan Lal Diler (UP) and Bahubhai Katara (Gujarat), MNF’s Vanlalzawla, Akali Dal’s Sukhdev Singh Libra, Trinamool’s Mamata Bannerjee, JD-U’s P.P. Koya, Shiv Sena’s Tukaram Ganpatram Renge Patil and TDP’s DK Audikesavulu.
The BJD’s Harihar Swain, who does not get along with CM Naveen Patnaik, voted with the Congress. So did the BJP’s Hari Singh Rathod (Maharashtra) and H.T. Sangliana (Karnataka). The other Opposition MP who pressed the aye button was JD-U’s Ramswaroop Prasad (Bihar) who felt ignored by CM Nitish Kumar.
While getting these MPs to abstain or not show up, the Congress’s number seekers won back Karnal MP Arvind Sharma. In contrast, TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu failed to hold back his two MPs. Audikesavulu sat with Naidu at noon but abstained later in what the TDP described as his “intimidation into submission” by Andhra CM Rajashekhara Reddy.
On the positive side, the vote endorsed the PM’s stand on the nuclear deal, opening at once the road to key economic reforms held up by the Left. On the downside, Singh’s is a tainted majority. “The bribe-for-vote charges show us in poor light. We’ll have to quickly restore the dignity of the House and remove doubts created by interested persons,’’ admitted a CWC member.
The general feeling in the party was that the PM should insulate his office, the party and the government from further damage from his perceived proximity to Amar Singh. But it will be easier said than done as the BJP won’t miss any opportunity to attack the UPA leadership each time it delivers its part of the bargain.
When the SP came on board, it unrolled its wishlist. Likewise, the JMM’s Shibu Soren wants his coal portfolio back. “First, we had to put up with the Left’s ideological arrogance. Now, we’ll have to deliver on promises to those who helped us win the vote,’’ lamented a Congress MP. He rued the fact that in the middle of this whirlpool was an upright and clean person like Manmohan Singh.