Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s UPA government survived the confidence motion by a much bigger margin (20 votes) than was predicted earlier. Though it was supposed to be a vote for or against the nuclear deal, it was anything but that.
The Left was probably the only party that stuck to its principles — right or wrong — and didn’t want the nuclear deal to go through. They threatened to withdraw support if the Government went ahead with the nuclear deal.
The UPA Government, realizing that this four year marriage of convenience with the Left was going to splitsville for issues besides the nuclear deal; that the Bush administration was coming to an end and the window of opportunity was closing; that elections were anyway around the corner, called Left’s bluff and went ahead with the nuclear deal. Left withdrew support and the Prime Minister asked for a vote of confidence in the parliament.
The pundits on the TV made some observations:
- Those who wanted elections this year were against the nuclear deal.
- Those who wanted elections next year were for the nuclear deal.
- Apparently, a third of the MPs in a party are one-time MPs. In addition, in the next election, due to delimitation, constituencies will increase in urban areas and metros — to reflect the migration of population — and many MPs will see their constituencies disappear. Therefore, for many of these MPs, it is a one time chance to make the most of the fact that their vote (or lack of it, i.e. abstention) is in great demand. It shouldn’t shock anyone if money was offered in exchange for votes.
Let the horse trading begin:
- One MP wanted the Government to name Lucknow airport after his father Charan Singh (former Prime Minister who held the post for 6 months). His wish was granted.
- Telugu Desam party wanted — you guessed correctly — a Telugu Desam, a separate state called Telangana, carved from the current state of Andhra Pradesh. They had earlier given support to the government with the condition that they will get statehood for Telangana.
- Devegowda, unable to stomach the rising power and influence of the Bellary Reddys (called the mining barons), wanted the Government to centralize mining.
- Amar Singh of the Samajvadi pary was glad to help but wanted some tax concessions for his friend Anil Ambani, one of the richest men in the world.
- Shibu Shoren, jailbird who was convicted of murder, was willing and able, in return for some cabinet position or for Chief Ministership of Jharkand.
I don’t think the BJP has a lot of disagreement with the nuclear deal. Manmohan Singh said that Advani had earlier promised his party’s support. But the BJP leadership wanted this forum to be a referendum on the UPA’s performance (or lack of it) in the last 4 years: they wanted to raise the issue of high inflation, ineffective response to terrorism etc. to bring down the Government so that the perennial “in-the-waiting” suffix can finally be removed and Advani can just be called Prime Minister. That strategy backfired with the rise of Mayavati, who thought that this was a perfect opportunity to become the Prime Minister. Left party was willing to join hands with Mayavati. So did many parties with 2 or 3 MPs. BJP realized that if the Government fell, credit would not go to the BJP but to Mayavati and she would emerge as the winner. Due to this unexpected new development, Cho Ramaswamy (and many others) observed that BJP was not really keen on bringing the government down. Though the BJP spokesperson came on TV and repeatedly said that their party will unanimously vote against the nuclear deal and bring the Government down, there were enough abstentions and cross-voting to ensure that the Government passed the no-confidence motion with a comfortable margin.