Congress prepares strategy to overcome crisis

July 8th, 2008 - 6:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 8 (IANS) Still unsure about its numbers in the Lok Sabha, the ruling Congress went into a huddle Tuesday to finalise its strategy after the Left withdrew support to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government. As the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was reduced to a minority, a meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs (CCPA) was scheduled for Tuesday evening to hammer out a strategy to handle the crisis.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties, which propped the government for four years with its 59 MPs and the support of two more, said they would go to President Pratibha Patil Wednesday with a letter withdrawing support to the Congress-led government.

Thereafter, a senior minister said, a special session may be convened if the president asks the prime minister to prove his majority. “It could be tentatively by July 21,” he said.

The government is planning to approach the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement only after winning the trust vote, the minister added.

Essentially, the Congress has to work out the maths.

Although the Samajwadi Party has committed that its 39 MPs in the Lok Sabha would vote in favour of the government in case of a floor test, Congress leaders said they did not want to take any risk.

Political analysts said the decision of the 61 Left MPs would bring down the multi-party UPA’s strength in the 545-seat Lok Sabha to 226. This would go up to 265 with the support of the Samajwadi Party’s 39 MPs, but leave it still seven short of the 272 MPs needed for majority support.

The three-member Rashtriya Lok Dal headed by veteran Uttar Pradesh politician Ajit Singh has also pledged its support to the government.

However, there are still some in the UPA that are not decided.

“We will be working to ensure that the numbers are in our favour,” the minister told IANS.

On the face of it, however, the party was confident.

“There are large number of people in parliament who do not think like the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) or the Left,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.

The party is also discussing the names for a new Lok Sabha speaker as CPI-M leader Somnath Chatterjee’s exit is almost certain.

The CPI-M leadership is believed to have decided to advise Chatterjee, who had become the speaker as a part of understanding between the UPA and the Left, to quit after the Left’s official withdrawal of support.

Amongst the names doing the rounds is that of Kishore Chandra Deo. Deo is a Scheduled Tribe leader elected from Parvathipuram in Andhra Pradesh.

Senior Congress ministers have questioned the Left’s timing for announcing the withdrawal of support.

Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily attacked the Left for taking such a step when the nation was “mourning” those who were killed in the Kabul blast Monday.

“When the entire nation is mourning those killed in the Kabul blast, the Left has chosen to make the announcement. It is most unfortunate. They think their prestige is more important than the nation’s prestige,” Moily told reporters here.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the Left parties were “wrong” in blaming the prime minister for the fiasco.

“The prime minister did not say anything that had not been told from last so many days. There was nothing that the prime minister said which was in contradiction to the talks that were going with the Left. It is wrong to blame the prime minister for it,” Tewari said.

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