UPA renames airport after his father, Left woos Ajit too (Second Lead)

July 17th, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) With three Lok Sabha MPs in his Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), it was Ajit Singh’s day to be wooed Thursday with the government deciding to rename an airport after his father, the late former prime minister Charan Singh, and the Left trying equally hard to win him over. A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took the decision to rename the Amausi airport in the Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow after Charan Singh in an apparent attempt to win the support of the RLD chief, whose three MPs could be vital in the trust vote on July 22.

Within an hour of that announcement, Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan drove to Ajit Singh’s house to explain the Leftists’ position on the India-US civil nuclear deal - why they had withdrawn support to the government over it - in an effort to make the RLD MPs vote against the government Tuesday.

The government needs 271 votes in the Lok Sabha to win the trust vote. By the latest count in a fluid situation, it has 263 votes, the opposition has 259 and 20 MPs are undecided.

That makes the support of the RLD crucial to both sides.

Ajit Singh has so far kept his cards close to his chest, and he continued to do so while talking to the media gathered outside his house after his meeting with Bardhan.

“I have apprised him about our position. He explained his stand. It is not easy (for Ajit Singh) to take a decision,” Bardhan said.

The RLD chief only added that he had heard the views of his “experienced and old friend” Bardhan.

“I will discuss the matter with my party colleagues,” he said.

Though he had earlier said he supported the nuclear deal, Ajit Singh is yet to spell out whether his party MPs would be voting in favour of the UPA government.

The RLD was part of the Samajwadi Party-led Mulayam Singh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh till it was voted out in the assembly elections in May 2007. The Samajwadi Party has now decided to support the government in parliament.

From the Left point of view, the Bardhan-Ajit Singh meeting is considered the second most crucial after Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat met Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati Sunday.

Following that meeting, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had contacted the president of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) Chandrasekhara Rao.

Rao, who had been undecided about voting in favour of or against the government, declared that his party would vote with the opposition soon after his meeting with Mayawati as the UPA had failed to pass a resolution giving a commitment on the issue of forming a separate Telengana. The TRS has three members in parliament.

With smaller parties still keeping the UPA government on tenterhooks, Congress political managers have been working overtime to ensure that the numbers are stacked in their favour as well as ensure the presence for the trust vote of MPs likely to support it.

The Janata Dal-S of H.D. Deve Gowda is expected to take a stand only by Friday while Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Shibu Soren is yet to spell out his position clearly with party insiders claiming he is reportedly demanding a cabinet berth in return for his party’s support. The JMM has five MPs.

The Congress was hoping to get the support of the National Conference, but has not received any commitment yet from its president Omar Abdullah.

Besides, the Independents keeping the UPA in suspense are Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary from Kokrajhar, Mani Charenamei from Outer Manipur, Thupstan Chhewang from Ladakh and Harish Nagpal from Amroha.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat has vowed that the Left would ensure that the contentious India-US civil nuclear deal does not get “operationalised during the life of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government”.

He had also said he was in touch with all parties which can take a stand against the deal, an issue that made them withdraw support to the government. The Left parties, with 59 MPs, withdrew their support July 9, turning the government into a minority.

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