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Delhi Test
PM: We’ll make it
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 16
While the Congress and its allies are making frantic efforts to garner support for the July 22 trust vote, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today expressed confidence that the government has the numbers to pull through unscathed. Speaking to a select group of journalists for the first time after the Left parties withdrew support to the UPA government, the Prime Minister was equally confident that the Indo-US nuclear deal would go through. Hard selling the nuke deal as being beneficial for the country, Manmohan Singh said it would end India’s nuclear isolation and enable it to cooperate in the civil nuclear energy development with all 45-member countries of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, including the USA, Russia, France and China.

The Prime Minister also underlined that the agreement would in no way impinge on the country’s strategic programme, which, he stressed, was entirely outside the purview of the IAEA safeguards agreement. The Prime Minister expressed confidence that the people of India understood the significance of the initiatives being taken by the UPA government and would endorse them.

The PM’s media drive follows a similar exercise undertaken by the government and the Congress. While the ruling coalition has placed huge advertisements in leading newspapers to explain as to why the nuke deal is good for the country, party president Sonia Gandhi has asked all Congress leaders to fan out to different parts of the country to convince people that the government had acted in the national interest.

However, the immediate task before the UPA government is to get through the July 22 trust vote but the task of mustering the magic figure of 272 appears to be getting tougher by the day.

Admitting that the contest will go down to the wire, Congress strategists have adopted a two-pronged strategy: to speak individually to all small parties and redress their grievances and the other is to ensure that opposition MPs abstain from voting. At the same time, it has to keep its flock intact, as there are reports that their political opponent, particularly BSP chief Mayawati, is not averse to snaring Congress MPs.

In a tight situation when every single vote is valuable, the Congress has to contend with tough-talking leaders like Deve Gowda of Janata Dal (S) and JMM chief Shibu Soren who has openly asked for a ministership in return for his support. Gowda today indicated that the three-member JD (S) would vote against the UPA government although a final decision would be taken at a party meeting on July 18.

While the two-member National Conference is keeping its options open, the Akali Dal announced in Chandigarh that that its eight MPs would vote with their alliance partner, the BJP, denying reports about the party being soft on the UPA because of the PM’s Sikh origins.

There was some relief for the Congress as the DMK was learnt to have reached out to former minister Dayanidhi Maran, who yesterday declared that he could abstain from voting.



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