M A I N   N E W S

Left pulls out, PM unfazed
Anita Katyal and Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

* It will not affect stability of the govt: Manmohan
* We will seek a vote of confidence, says Pranab
* Session by third week of this month likely

New Delhi, July 8
After the Left parties announced their decision to withdraw support to the UPA government, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee declared this evening that the ruling coalition would seek a vote of confidence as soon as it receives a formal communication from President Pratibha Patil.

“The India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will only be finalised after securing a trust vote as the UPA does not want to bind the next government with the Indo-US nuclear deal,” Mukherjee told mediapersons this evening.

At the same time, the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) had a brief meeting where it was decided to convene the monsoon session of Parliament from August 11 to September 5.

Although Mukherjee made it clear that a special session will be called before August 11, the dates will be finalised only after the President communicates her decision to the government which is likely to come after she confers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return from Japan on July 10. However, UPA sources indicated that the session could be held around the third week of this month to enable the government to approach the IAEA with the backing of Parliament.

“We would like to seek the approval of the board of governors of the IAEA the moment we receive the vote of confidence,” Mukherjee said, adding that he was making the announcement after securing the Prime Minister’s approval who is currently in Japan for the G-8 summit. Mukherjee along with defence minister A.K.Antony also conferred at length with Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the day.

Although unfazed by the Left’s decision to snap ties with the ruling combine, today’s development has further intensified the ongoing numbers game in the UPA. In a house of 544, the UPA has to get 272, the halfway mark in the Lok Sabha. The ruling coalition has 229 members in its kitty after it lost the support of the 59-member-strong Left parties and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s 17 MPs.

To make up for this loss, the Congress has been promised support by its new freind, the Samajwadi Party, which has 39 members in the Lok Sabha. However, these numbers could fluctuate and this figure could even come down to 35 as there are murmurs of dissent within its ranks.

If the SP gets 35 members, the UPA’s tally goes up to 264, which is still short of the half-way mark. The UPA is, therefore, reaching out to smaller safety mark of 272.

The government is also banking on Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) who will bring in another three members along with the two members of Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (S). In addition, UPA strategists are also wooing single-member parties like the SDF of Sikkim and the MNF of Mizoram and individual leaders to help them make up the shortfall. “We are looking at all those who don’t want an early election and will not vote with the BJP,” said a senior UPA minister.

Not wanting to take any chances, the government has also approached the Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir who can bring in three MPs. It will be possible for the UPA to sail through a trust vote provided it can garner all this support. “We are confident of the numbers and we will through with flying colours,” maintained parliamentary affairs minister Vyalar Ravi.



Be ready for poll: Basu
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 8
Jyoti Basu virtually flagged-off the party’s poll campaign for the Lok Sabha today by asking party men to go to the people and seek their blessings and support. He advised the leaders and workers to rectify themselves and be polite to all — even to their political enemies.

Basu was speaking at his 95th birthday celebration function today, which was organised by Patherpachali, a social welfare organisation of the state transport minister Subhas Chakraborty and his wife Romala.

But the veteran leader had all through been against the withdrawal of support to the Manmohan Singh government and a mid-term election at this stage. Accordingly, he had advised Prakash Karat not go hasty but buy some more time before finally withdrawing support. However, in the wake of the new development, Basu said the party men should be ready for the poll.

A section in the CPM state committee, which held an urgent meeting at the Alimuddin street party office, are still opposed to the withdrawal of support, which they felt would be suicidal. They all were wanting some time to repair the damage to the party on the Singur and Nandigram and several other issues, which were reflected in the results of the civic polls.

Moreover, the decision would benefit the BJP to a large extent, which for the past sometime had been demanding the fall of the UPA government and holding of the mid-term poll in the Lok Sabha after their recent victory in the assembly elections in some states and several local bodies polls. The leaders even suggested at today’s state committee meeting that their MPs could abstain during the vote on the confidence motion which the BJP would be bringing about in the Lok Sabha.

The state committee also discussed the party’s future strategy against the BJP as well as Congress during the coming elections. Party secretary Biman Bose said they would organise massive demonstrations and a nationwide campaign against the nuclear deal and the Prime Minister’s yielding to the Bush administration at the cost of the country’s unity and sovereignty.

He said they were aggrieved at the insulting behaviour of the Prime Minister and the UPA leadership towards the Left parties on whose support they could remain in power for more than four years at a stretch.



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