The Congress is almost certain to abstain when the Naveen Patnaik led Biju Janata Dal (BJD) government seeks a vote of confidence on Wednesday.
Despite being the main opposition party in Orissa, with 38 MLAs in the 147 member House, party leaders maintained that with a general election in the offing in which the BJP is its prime opponent nationally, they should not be seen voting alongside the BJP on any issue. Accordingly, the number of voting members of the assembly is likely to fall to 109, and the BJD, with 61 MLAs of its own and another 17 supporting it, is expected to sail through.
At least 10 MLAs who attended the Congress’s legislature party meeting on Tuesday evening separately confirmed to HT that they had been told to abstain. Officially, the Congress remained coy. “We will decide on the spur of the moment whether to vote or not,” said Narasingha Mishra, deputy leader of the Congress in the assembly.
“Voting is tomorrow,” said state Congress president K. P. Singhdeo. “We will decide about tomorrow’s situation, tomorrow.” A three-line whip has indeed been issued to Congress MLAs, but only to remain present in the House.
The trust vote became necessary after the ruling BJD-BJP alliance fell apart last Friday, with the BJP withdrawing support and reducing the government to a minority.
The Congress will, however, vigorously participate in the debate preceding the confidence motion to corner the BJD government. Tuesday’s legislature party meeting discussed the strategies to be employed and the issues to be raised during the debate at length. “It has been decided to participate in the proceedings of the House and expose the government and its former ally thoroughly,” said Mishra
The BJD, however, is not taking chances. Needing a minimum of 74 votes for its government to continue in office, it has roped all the non-BJP and non-Congress parties, along with seven of the eight independents to ensure that even a combined Congress-BJP vote against it, will leave the government unaffected. “I’m sure we’ll win the vote and continue to provide a stable and progressive government,” said Naveen Patnaik at the end of the BJD’s own legislature party meeting.