The Left on Tuesday finally ended four years of support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ruling coalition over the contentious India-US nuclear deal, reducing it to a minority in parliament. But the Samajwadi Party quickly announced allegiance to the government and Manmohan Singh declared that his government's stability would not be hit.
"Left pulling out will not affect the stability of the government," a confident Manmohan Singh told the media in Japan where he is attending the G8 summit and related meetings with world leaders.
Months of high-voltage drama ended at the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) headquarters in New Delhi where its general secretary Prakash Karat said the time had come for the Left to end their backing after Manmohan Singh's public decision to approach the IAEA "very soon" to take ahead the civilian nuclear deal.
"As you are aware, the Left parties had decided that if the government goes to the IAEA Board of Governors, they will withdraw support," Karat said, reading out a letter sent 90 minutes earlier to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. "In view of the prime minister's announcement (on his way to Japan), that time has come."
The announcement - although widely expected - triggered a political furore. Karat said leaders of the CPI-M, Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Forward Bloc would meet President Pratibha Patil on Wednesday noon to formally submit a letter withdrawing their legislative support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The UPA government is likely to face a floor test later this month. Government sources said there could be a parliament session starting July 21 during which Manmohan Singh would seek the confidence of the house.
Political analysts said the decision of the 61 Left MPs would bring down the multi-party UPA's strength in the 545-seat Lok Sabha to 226. This would go up to 265 with the support of the Samajwadi Party's 39 MPs, but leave it still seven short of the 272 MPs needed for majority support.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) immediately held a meeting of its leaders at the house of its prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and asked the UPA government to seek a vote of confidence.
BJP president Rajnath Singh told reporters: "After the withdrawal of the Left's support, the prime minister should seek a vote of confidence in parliament."
The only silver lining on Tuesday for the government came from foe-turned-friend Samajwadi Party, whose president Mulayam Singh Yadav - a former wrestler - announced his party's support to the ruling coalition.
"We welcome the nuclear deal and back Manmohan Singh's decision to go ahead to the IAEA for the next step in the deal," he told reporters. "If there is a vote in parliament, we will support the prime minister and the nuclear deal.
But Mulayam Singh said the Samajwadi Party would not join the Manmohan Singh government.
The Congress said it was confident of surviving the crisis.
"We have the numbers and we will prove our majority in the house (Lok Sabha)," Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said. Added chief Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi: "We are confident that we will have the (nuclear) deal... Things will go on."
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad added his bit: "There is no danger to the survival of the government. We will prove our majority in parliament."
Congress sources said it was looking to break the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and also woo some of the smaller parties to shore up its numbers in the badly divided Lok Sabha.
Karat said earlier that there was no purpose now in holding Thursday's scheduled Left-UPA nuclear committee meeting because the government had not shared with them the text of the India-specific safeguards pact to be negotiated with the IAEA.
"Further, (the meeting) is rendered meaningless since the PM while travelling abroad has chosen to announce (that the government will approach) the board of governors (of IAEA) very soon."
In a related development, the four Left parties issued a separate statement demanding a discussion "with full transparency" on the text of the IAEA safeguards agreement. "Why is the Manmohan Singh government keeping the draft of the IAEA agreement secret from the people of India?"
The statement raised specific concerns of the Left parties over the safeguards agreement they said had not been addressed by the UPA coalition.
Within minutes of Left withdrawing support to the government, Indian equities rose impressively on major bourses Tuesday, anticipating friendlier policies towards the corporate sector. And India Inc voiced the hope that the slow-moving economic reforms programme would now be put on the fast track.