Ajit Singh ditches UPA, JMM says yes (Lead)

July 20th, 2008 - 1:43 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The going looked tough for the Manmohan Singh government ahead of Tuesday’s trust vote after the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RSP) Sunday announced it would vote against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the crucial floor test, but there was some comfort for the ruling coalition after the elusive JMM chief, Shibu Soren, declared his support. Apparently miffed at not getting an assurance to get the food ministry, RLD chief Ajit Singh met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati and soon after announced that his party would “vote against the UPA on July 22″.

The Congress was trying to woo the Jat leader for the support of his three RLD MPs. The union cabinet, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had Thursday even decided to rename Lucknow’s Amausi airport after former prime minister and Ajit Singh’s father, Chaudhary Charan Singh.

After his meeting with Mayawati, Ajit Singh had earlier remained non-committal. “I came here to talk not only about the present political crisis but also about what future political affiliations will be,” Singh said after the meeting.

“She is a big leader. I have come to meet her now. I might have another meeting with her,” Singh said as he kept all parties guessing about which way his RLD will go.

But later he changed his stance and said : “After talking with many leaders of different parties we discussed their views in our party meeting. We are going to vote against the UPA government.”

The UPA, that was also wooing the JMM, had some news to cheer when its chief Shibu Soren declared his party would “vote for the Congress and the UPA” after meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi Sunday morning.

“There have been lot of talks. Some good and some bad. Our MPs took a decision after seeing the current political situation and we have decided that we will vote for the Congress and the UPA government,” he told reporters after his meeting with Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence.

“We also decided that we should stay with those we have been with,” he said.

When prodded by reporters on what he had got in exchange for his support, Soren said his party has been offered “two central ministerial berths”. He said: “We will do politics from both the centre and the state”. He is reportedly lobbying for deputy chief ministership for his son in Jharkhand. The former coal minister had been demanding the coal ministry and a minister of state berth for his party.

The meeting of the JMM supremo with Gandhi assumes significance as four of his party members had earlier made it clear that they would be voting in the favour of the UPA government.

Soren, who was “underground” for the past two days, surfaced Saturday evening and told reporters that the party would take a decision on supporting the government only on Sunday.

Soren was accompanied by Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto during his meeting with Gandhi.

Soren has been invited to attend a dinner hosted by the prime minister Sunday.

The Samajwadi Party, the UPA government’s foe-turned-friend, is facing anxious moments in trying to keep its flock together with Mayawati aggressively courting and managing to get five of the MPs. However, the Samajwadi Party has assured that it will be able to poach some members from the opposite camp too.

The Congress party said that after Manmohan Singh moves a one-line motion Monday morning in parliament, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz and Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury will speak in favour of the motion.

Congress Party spokesperson Shakil Ahmed and MP Sachin Pilot will be the other Congress speakers. The order of the participants in the discussion has not been finalised.

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