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Small parties, independents in great demand

Anita Joshua

Both the ruling combine and the Opposition parties are trying to woo those who are still undecided on support


NEW DELHI: With the government and its opponents more or less equally poised in the numbers game ahead of the July 21-22 trust vote, both sides are making every effort to woo 11 Lok Sabha members who are still undecided.

As of Friday evening, the United Progressive Alliance had “ensured” the support of 268 members, four short of the half-way mark in a House with an existing strength of 543. This includes, besides the UPA’s 226 members, 37 of the Samajwadi Party, one each of the Bharatiya Navshakti Party and the National Loktantrik Party, and three independents whom the Congress claims as its own.

And, the members committed to showing the government the door, on the issue of the India-U.S nuclear deal, add up to 263. They include three Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) members who have warned that they will vote against the government if an assurance of separate Statehood is not made by the hour of reckoning.

Among the fence-sitters are the National Conference, the All India Trinamool Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Janata Dal (Secular). While the Left parties are hopeful of getting the JD(S) on board to vote the government out, the Congress camp is pinning its hopes on the RLD, whose president Ajit Singh has made favourable comments on the nuclear deal.

Differences persist

In the JD(S) camp, differences persist between president H.D. Deve Gowda and Kerala member M.P. Veerendra Kumar. After meeting Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, Mr. Kumar made it clear that he would vote with the Left, leaving the JD(S) with two undecided votes.

Mr. Gowda, who was in the capital on Thursday, attracted attention from both camps. While the Congress top leadership is understood to have spoken to him, his visitors included Mr. Ajit Singh, Telugu Desam Party leader K. Yerrannaidu and Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chauthala. A leader of the Asom Gana Parishad is also understood to have met him and TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao spoke to him over telephone.

On Friday, at a meeting between Mr. Karat and JD(S) secretary-general Danish Ali the need for secular regional parties coming together was stressed.

According to Mr. Ali, the CPI(M) and the JD(S) have not given up hope on the “third front” despite the departure of the SP from the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA).

Both are linked: Omar Abdullah

Though the National Conference is technically still with the UNPA, its president Omar Abdullah maintained that his party was yet to firm up its stand on the nuclear deal and the trust vote. “Unfortunately, both are linked. If you want the deal, the government has to survive,” he told The Hindu, adding a decision would be taken in consultation with other party leaders.

Over the past couple of days, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. Karat have reached out to him.

While independent MPs and leaders of the undecided parties have pitched tents in the capital in anticipation of the intense lobbying, it is learnt that TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu is in touch with Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati in an effort to get her to jump on the UNPA bandwagon, now in disarray with its biggest constituent parting company.

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