Thanks mainly to the support provided by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Tuesday survived a trial of strength in the Lok Sabha as the cut motions moved by the Opposition parties were defeated.
With this, the hope of a grand alliance of all Opposition parties against the government's economic policies, especially those resulting in price rise, suffered a setback when the political Right and the Left together registered a total of 201 votes for their cut motions against 289 by the government.
The government was home, safe and dry, but, ironically, the comfort was provided by the parties not exactly known to be friendly to the Congress, even though “technically” they count as supporters of the UPA as they have not withdrawn letters of support despite several threats of doing so.
A few days ago it became clear that the Congress had managed to placate Ms. Mayawati, who on Tuesday went to extraordinary lengths announcing her support to the government in Lucknow hours before the cut motions were taken up.
On Monday, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal started “dithering” and “retreating” from their commitment given earlier to the 13-party alliance of non-UPA and non-NDA parties on supporting the cut motions. They made it clear in the House that they would not vote along with the BJP, thus indirectly helping the government. Of course, that did not prevent them from giving a tongue-lashing to the UPA before walking out minutes ahead of voting.
Divisions in the ranks of the non-UPA and non-NDA alliance surfaced just before the cut motions were taken up for voting. SP chief Mulayam Singh and RJD chief Lalu Prasad took the lead to walk out in protest, much to the relief of the treasury benches. They lashed out at the Congress for its failure to check back-breaking inflation, provide free health care and education and unemployment allowances. Mr. Prasad accused the BJP and the Congress of being hand in glove over the Indian Premier League issue.
He charged BJP leader L.K. Advani with letting down the Opposition by underplaying the IPL issue while seeking to raise the phone tapping controversy. Mr. Advani did not retort, but there was a full-throated outcry from the BJP benches.
Without yielding any ground, Mr. Prasad said the UPA government would have been defeated on the IPL issue. He added there was no point in supporting either the Congress or the BJP. He would have supported the cut motion brought by the Left, provided the BJP did not support it.
Amidst protest by Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) against the unfounded allegations levelled by Mr. Prasad, the RJD and SP members left the House together.
Mr. Dasgupta, Sushma Swaraj (BJP), Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) and Sharad Yadav (JD-U) insisted that their motions against the hike in duty of petrol and diesel be taken up separately.
Ms. Swaraj said the Opposition had no option but to press cut motions as the government refused to listen to them. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee repudiated the charge instantly.
Her cut motion was the only one which could be taken up separately because thereafter the electronic voting system failed in the House. It was defeated by 84 votes. This, however, was not the final figure and was subject to correction.
Those voting in favour of it included the BJP and its allies and the Left.The Opposition parties agreed to have the rest of the motions clubbed with Mr. Dasgupta's cut motion and the division was recorded. The demand for grants of various departments were put to the guillotine and passed along with the Appropriation Bill without a discussion.