With the Samajwadi Party unable to hold together its flock, the Congress-led UPA is banking on “surprises from some unexpected quarters’’ to win the July 22 trust vote. And if this government goes, so does the nuclear deal, for now.
In a huge setback to the SP on Saturday, Rajya Sabha member Shahid Siddiqui crossed over to the BSP and Lok Sabha MP from Jalesar S.P. Singh Baghel became the fourth party MP to come out against the UPA.
The Samajwadi, which started off with a tally of 39, is now down to 35, with three rebels — Munawar Hasan, Raj Narain Budholiya and Jai Prakash — already ranged against the government. There is no certainty also about jailbirds Atiq Ahmed and Afzal Ansari.
If the government goes, said experts, so will the nuclear deal. “If the UPA loses the vote, then it is only logical that they halt the process,” said former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal. “The confidence motion is an indirect vote to ratify the deal.”
Strategic analyst K. Subrahmanyam said the civil nuclear accord would have to be pursued by a new government, if this government goes. “The whole process gets suspended till a new government takes it up. But the deal will survive. We have the Hyde Act and the 123 agreement in place,” he added.
Though Siddiqui’s resignation does not affect SP’s numbers in the House, it would be deeply embarrassing for the party as it tries to mobilize support for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to continue in office.
Understandably rattled, UPA is looking beyond the SP for those magical numbers needed to take it beyond the halfway mark of 271. “We expect support from unexpected quarters from outside our traditional support base,” said Union minister Prithviraj Chavan, adding, “We have built a cushion of surprise. There will be support from all parties excluding the Left.”
Other party functionaries hinted at abstentions by MPs of the Akali Dal, BJD, Shiv Sena and even BJP MPs, particularly from Gujarat and MP. The UPA leaders had a strategy session at Pranab Mukherjee’s house.
The numbers are slow in coming. The smaller parties are taking their time. They wil be joining the PM and is UPA MPS and party office-bearers for dinner at Hotel Ashok on Sunday.
After meeting Singh on Saturday, JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda was non committal. He will announce his stand on Sunday. The five-member JMM, too, continued to play hard to get.
Meanwhile, the Congress did an informal headcount of its 150-odd MPs when groups of members called on Sonia Gandhi.
"Less than a dozen could not come because of some commitment but they had informed about it,’’ said an AICC leader.
Meanwhile MIMIM leader and UPA ally A Owaisi met the PM and Sonia Gandhi and assured them of his support for the UPA, saying he did not want to see BJP’s LK Advani as PM.