All eyes on President Pratibha Patil Wednesday

July 9th, 2008 - 1:01 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil was Wednesday at the centre of the gathering political storm with Left parties scheduled to visit her with letters withdrawing their support to the Congress-led government, followed by the Samajwadi Party that will call on her with an assurance of backing it. The president will face her first political test since taking over July 25 last year when the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties meet her at 12 noon Wednesday to formally pull out. The leaders of the four parties - CPI-M, Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) - met at the CPI-M headquarters here just ahead of their visit to the president.

The four parties, whose 59 MPs in the Lok Sabha extended their parliamentary support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2004 and backed out Tuesday over the India-US civilian nuclear deal, are giving separate letters to the president.

Patil will have to decide whether and when the Manmohan Singh-led government should seek the trust of the Lok Sabha. She will also be under pressure to get the government to prove at the earliest that it has the numbers.

Left leaders, like CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, have already demanded that the president ask the government to prove its majority after the Communists pulled out their support. The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party also has said the government should face a trust vote as early as possible.

Forty five minutes later, the president will be visited by Congress’s foe-turned-friend Samajwadi Party at 12.45 p.m. with a letter declaring their support to the government.

Although Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh have vowed the support of 38 of the 39 MPs, they are still under threat from their bete-noire Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has already snatched some of its MPs in recent months.

They fear that the BSP, which has been targeting the Samajwadi Party for taking an “anti-Muslim” stance by supporting the contentious nuclear deal, could render its MPs vulnerable to poaching.

The Congress-led government has indicated that it would face parliament very soon. According to the constitution, a functioning government need not seek the confidence of the house unless there is a no-trust motion moved by opposition or any other party.

However, as the government has expressed its willingness to face a floor test ahead of going to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the president is expected to advise the prime minister to prove his majority.

Government sources said the UPA was ready to convene a special session July 21 or 22 only to prove its majority.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday announced that the government would go to the IAEA to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement - being opposed by the Left on grounds that it would carry the nuclear deal with Washington forward - only after proving its majority.

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