M A I N   N E W S

Prez asks PM to meet her today
The great headhunt begins
Left formalises divorce, SP submits support letter
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 9
While President Pratibha Patil has sought a formal meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow after the Left parties withdrew support to the UPA government, the Congress and its allies have got down to the real business of mustering the numbers for a trial of strength in the Lok Sabha, which will give legitimacy to the ruling coalition to proceed with the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

Hours after the Left parties formally submitted letters breaking with the UPA government, the Rashtrapati Bhawan issued a communique late tonight saying that in the light of these “political developments, the President has requested the Prime Minister to meet her tomorrow to have his views.”

Singh, who returned from the G-8 summit in Japan well past midnight, is expected to formally convey his government’s willingness to convene a special session of Parliament for a trust vote when he meets the President tomorrow evening.

With the government indicating that the special session could be called on July 21 or 22, political activity in the Capital will intensify in the coming days. In fact, all UPA MPs have been told not to leave Delhi till July 22. A meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) has been convened on July 11 to discuss the party’s future strategy in the light of the Left pull-out.

Having publicly committed itself to a confidence vote, Congress strategists have swung into action to deliver on the numbers for what promises to be a really close contest in the Lok Sabha. External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president’s political secretary Ahmed Patel are learnt to be supervising the mammoth task of contacting and persuading the smaller regional parties, the one-man outfits and individual leaders to either support the government or, at best, abstain. “Different people have been assigned different responsibilities,” remarked a Congress leader, adding that UPA allies like RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and NCP’s Sharad Pawar are also pitching in. The Samajwadi Party, which gave a letter to the President pledging support to the UPA, is also canvassing support for the government.

Although UPA leaders have confidently declared that they have the numbers and that the government is stable, they privately admit that it will not be a cakewalk as smaller parties like Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (S), the Telengana Rashtriya Samiti and even the JMM are acting tough and extracting a price for their support.

UPA leaders, however, are drawing solace from the fact that the opposition does not have the requisite numbers to defeat the government. Congress strategists maintain that except for the main opposition parties and the Left, it will be difficult for other MPs to vote against the government as it will be tantamount to ‘voting himself out of Parliament’.

The ruling coalition is also well aware of the dilemma facing the Akali Dal which has its roots in the Panthic faith and, therefore, cannot afford to contribute to the defeat of the country’s first Sikh Prime Minister.

Besides, parties like the Akali Dal and, to some extent, even the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), are under pressure from the large Sikh and Telugu diaspora which is rooting firmly for the nuclear deal.

UPA sources said once the government wins the trust vote, it becomes so much easier for the government to pursue the nuke deal as it can then confidently maintain that it has taken the sense of Parliament and it is in favour of the nuclear agreement.



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