Trust vote: opinion divided in UDF

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Nov. 6. The proposal that the Antony Government should seek a vote of confidence to overcome its current problems appears to be logically sound, but politically impractical to implement. The move, in any case, is likely to be a non-starter because of the IUML and the Kerala Congress(M)'s disinclination to pursue this line and the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, willing to go ahead only in the event of a consensus in the UDF.

The confidence vote proposal has been obviously mooted in the context of the Opposition's notice against the Speaker, Vakkom B. Purushothaman, and the general perception that the Karunakaran faction is planning to split the Congress party in Kerala. The proponents of the trust vote contend that the move has several advantages. According to them, the party has virtually split into two and a trust vote would help settle once and for all which side of the fence Congressmen were going to stand. With the bureaucracy preparing for a possible change of guard owing to the current confusion in the political situation, the trust vote would, it is believed, clear the paralysis that has set in the State administration and gear it up for next phase.

One of the prime objectives of the trust vote is to ensure that the UDF partners would not break ranks. Some of the constituents have taken ambivalent positions relating to the demand for a leadership change and the vote of confidence. Only the CMP, led by M.V. Raghavan, has openly stated that the Government should seek a trust vote. Unlike the Congress MLAs, the UDF partners do not come under the purview of the anti-defection laws and are free to take whatever positions they prefer. A confidence vote would ensure their commitment to a government headed by Mr. Antony, it is said.

The IUML is strongly against going in for a confidence vote. The party position, as proclaimed by its supremo, Panakkad Syed Mohammedali Shihab Thangal, is that the matter should be discussed among the partners before a decision is taken.

The IUML would find a trust vote hard to digest because it would have to change its secretariat and working committee resolutions against Mr. Antony. The IUML also fears that a trust vote might lead to the split in the Congress and complicate matters for the UDF in the next Lok Sabha and panchayat elections.

The party, therefore, would rather make an attempt to bring about a compromise of sorts. The only difficulty is that it is not too sure of how to achieve this objective.

One of the major flaws in the move for a trust vote is that it is based on assumptions. The Antony faction leaders have been vociferously alleging that Mr. Karunakaran is planning to split the party and tie up with the LDF to form an alternative Government. But for the records, Mr. Karunakaran has so far only demanded a leadership change officially, though it is true that he has been openly airing the possibilities of an alliance with the LDF and his son, K Muraleedharan, has shared common platforms with the CPI(M) leaders.

According to one school of thought, Mr. Karunakaran could still get his MLAs to vote in favour of the Government if only to avoid violating the party whip and invite disqualification. In the event of Mr. Karunakaran voting in favour of the Government, Mr. Antony would surely prove his point, but the Congress leadership would have to live with Mr. Karunakaran and his demand for a leadership change. It would still give Mr. Karunakaran the upper hand to tilt the scales at a crucial time, such as on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections.