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UPA Seems To Have Edge, But It Could Be Maya

LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY began the SMS in all caps. The message to two Arunachal
Pradesh BJP MPs spelt out this opportunity in two short sentences: ‘‘Don’t miss it.
Come and meet the chief minister just once.’’ The chief minister is from the
All five Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs are flocking together on the 14th floor of a
fivestar hotel within walking distance of Parliament. It’s said their minders are also
on the same floor.
Ashok Argal, BJP MP from Morena in Madhya Pradesh, will lose his seat in the next
Lok Sabha polls because delimitation will make it a reserved seat. Hence, he was
restless. And was approached by those who promised to ease his sorrow. In the nick
of time, BJP got wind of this and Argal has now been promised an Assembly ticket.
Congress managers have realized that the going rate for support has climbed
unrealistically high. One BJP MP from Gujarat asked for Rs 35 crore. The managers
felt it was too high. They have told the MP that they’ll get back. Till late evening,
they hadn’t.
Bets are still on, and it could go either way. But after several days of hard
bargaining and aggressively chasing Opposition rebels, the numbers seemed to be
tilting in favour of the Manmohan Singh government with UPA managers securing the
support of most Independents and small northeast parties as well as successfully
raiding the NDA flock.
The no-holds-barred tactics employed by the government’s vote managers—using
lures of all sorts—appear to have paid off with the ruling coalition confident that
there would be crucial desertions from BJP and Shiv Sena ranks. This silent vote, and
the support of smaller groups, could propel the government past the majority mark
with some MPs to spare.
As it tried to mop up support, the government’s strategy also aimed at ensuring
that Opposition rebels absented themselves during Tuesday’s vote, bringing down the
number of MPs required for crossing the majority mark. In this, NDA seemed to have
been at the receiving end of the attention of Congress managers who urged rebels to
not only abstain but issue statements denouncing BJP’s “double standards” on the
India-US nuclear deal.
What seems to have helped the government was the impression that the
Opposition challenge was not really firm. The lack of mobilisation— other than the
efforts of BSP chief Mayawati—saw the waverers and small groups gravitate towards
the government. Typically, Independents and one- or two-MP parties do not want to
be caught on the wrong side in a contest such as the vote due in Lok Sabha on
Tuesday. On top of that, the temptations were so high that an MP joc

ularly remarked that a windfall tax could be levied on them.

Senior BJP sources admitted that party MPs were subject to a fierce Congress
operation. With even hospitalised MPs not being spared the attention of poachers,
the disquiet in BJP was obvious. Apart from Shiv Sena rebel Tukaram Renge Patil, at
least one more Sainik was preparing to change colours. In fact, Congress managers
claimed there could be more desertions from the Thackeray stable.
As reports came in of vulnerable MPs in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, UP,
Maharashtra and Gujarat, spirits in the saffron camp began to droop. Other groups
like TDP were pointing out how BJP had let the anti-UPA campaign down.
The worries in the BJP camp spread fast, demoralising NDA ranks. It gave a boost
to the government which sensed the Opposition challenge faltering. BJP leaders were
quick to denounce ‘‘mercenary’’ tactics of the ruling party but could do little to
explain why the party’s own MPs were proving so fickle, all the more so as the
saffron outfit had been arguing that Congress was in decline in most states.
The much-anticipated counter-poaching by BSP beyond the five Samajwadi Party
turncoats is yet to materialise. Mayawati has told her new allies in the UNPA that this
tally could rise to seven SP MPs and two Congress MPs. On this alone now rest the
hopes of the Opposition. By evening, however, Congress managers had secured two
MPs from UP—Rajesh Mishra and Surendra Goyal—who were suspected to be
wavering. SP was also keeping a hawk-eyed watch on its flock. Indications were that
even SP rebel Afzaal Ansari may vote for the government.
The vote is still likely to be close, even as the government claimed its tally had
crossed 272. Among north-east groups whose support it claimed to have sewed up
are Nagaland People’s Front, Outer Manipur MP Mani Charenamei and Kokrajhar MP S
Bwiswmuthiary. Two BJP MPs from Arunachal have resisted Congress’s attempts.
Though Mizo MP Vanlalzawma has declared he is abstaining, Congress managers
remained hopeful.
Independent from Ladakh Thupstan Chhewang may back the UPA, said Congress
sources who also claimed the support of the two-MP National Conference. The NC will
show its hand only during voting.
But all the UPA’s calculations rest on one hope—that Mayawati doesn’t still have a
trick or two up her sleeve.
Bihar chief minister and NDA leader Nitish Kumar opened another front in the
ongoing war of words on Monday morning, calling the UPA United Poachers
Association’. Before long, Parliament Street was buzzing with catchphrases as
legislators scrambled to have fun with puns. Among the buzzwords heard on
Parliament Street:
BSP: Buying Samajwadi Party SP: Service Provider NDA: Non-Delivery Agents CPM:
Afew days ago, we front-paged a report saying that the run-up to the trust vote
had begun to resemble the last few overs of a deadheat T20 match. We're now in the
final over, and it still looks like it could be anybody's game. Every hour brings with it
a fresh rumour — of an MP defecting, of another MP being persuaded to abstain. The
list of ‘undecided’ MPs swells and shrinks, depending on which side of the fence
you’re on. Don’t be surprised if a few MPs get themselves admitted to hospital, or
are generally indisposed. In that case, the target votes would no longer be 271
(given an effective Lok Sabha voting strength of 541), but less. The numbers
alongside are, therefore, an approximation. Given the hectic dealmaking and the
mouth-watering inducements that are being held out, it’s entirely possible that the
final count of ayes and nays on the floor of Parliament will be at variance with the
numbers here

FOR 269

UPA 223:
Cong 151, Lalu’s RJD 24, Pawar’s NCP 11, Karunanidhi’s DMK 16, Ramadoss’ PMK
6, Soren’s JMM 5, Paswan’s LJP 4, Plus one each
from Owaisi’s MIM, Mehbooba’s PDP, Muslim
League, NLP, RPI(A) and SDF

SP & Others 46:

SP 34, MDMK rebels 2, BJP rebels 2, JD(U) rebels 2, Omar Abdullah’s NC 2, Shiv
Sena rebel 1, TRS rebel 1, Delkar's BNP 1, Independent 1


NDA 165:

BJP 128, Shiv Sena 11, Patnaik’s BJD 11, Akali Dal 8, JD(U) 6, Cong rebel 1

Left 60:

CPM 42, CPI 10, Forward Bloc 3, RSP 3 Kerala Congress 1 Independent 1

BSP & Others 42:

BSP 17, TDP 5, SP rebels 5, Gowda's JD(S) 3, Ajit Singh’s RLD 3, MDMK 2, TRS 2,
AGP 2, Ind 2, Cong rebel 1
ABSTAIN: 1 Mamata Banerjee UNDECIDED: 4 MNF 1, NPF 1, Independents 2 NO
VOTE: 2 Speaker, except if tie; P C Thomas due to SC order Bookies betting on govt
Political analysts may still be unwilling to hazard a guess about the fate of the UPA,
but bookies are happily putting their money where their analysis is. And they’ve
made the government odds-on favourite. Betting on the UPA staying in office will
yield you a return of only 50 paise on the rupee. The odds being offered on the
NDALeft delivering a knockout punch are Rs 1.75 for every rupee bet. But most
bettors are apparently putting their money on the government being toppled—a
result of the attractive odds? In all, almost Rs 1,500 crore is said to have been
wagered so far across the country. P 3

Markets, industry back UPA to win

Like bookies, market players too seem confident that the government will pull
through the trust vote. On Monday, the Sensex stayed positive throughout, closing at
13,850, up 215 points or 1.6% over Friday’s closing figure. The benchmark index has
now risen 1,300 points in the last three trading sessions. India Inc too seems to be
confident about the government’s prospects. Responding to a survey by industry
body Assocham, 72% of CEOs said the UPA would sail through the trust vote and
push ahead with reforms in pension, insurance, civil aviation and labour. P 19 MP:
Cong to BSP to Cong to BSP
The run-up to the trust vote has seen many a flip-flop, but Congress MP from
Karnal Arvind Sharma takes the cake. Sharma on Monday went back to the Mayawati
camp for the second time in three days. On Friday, the dentist-turnedpolitician had,
for the first time, attacked the government for “targeting” BSP chief Mayawati,
sending Congress managers scrambling to bring him back to the fold. A one-on-one
audience at 10, Janpath was speedily arranged. By Monday morning, Sharma had
been ‘‘convinced’’ to rejoin the ranks. But even as the debate raged in Parliament,
Sharma announced that he was back with Mayawati. P 13

Mayawati steals Advani’s thunder

If it was coincidence, then it was certainly a most interesting one. On Monday, BSP
leader Mayawati began a press conference barely five minutes after BJP leader L K
Advani started speaking in Parliament on the trust vote. It had been quietly let out
that the BSP leader would parade some more SP MPs who had switched sides. So,
even as the leader of the opposition was holding forth on the trust vote, some TV
channels switched to Mayawati’s press conference in anticipation of news on new
defectors. It’s another matter that no such announcement was made at the
conference. P 11

Advani flat; Left, UPA allies spare each other


New Delhi: The Left’s sense of anger at being jilted by Congress was all too apparent
on Monday. So was the new-born animosity between the comrades and their one-
time heartland favourite, Samajwadi Party. But in the midst of the barbs, there
appeared to be a curious, if unspoken, compact that saw Left not attacking UPA
partners and the compliment being returned.
The debate was initiated by Manmohan Singh and kicked off by BJP’s PM-in-waiting
L K Advani. But Advani was uncharacteristically thanda, some called his speech
‘‘lacklustre’’. Obviously, he was being judged by his own high oratorial reputation.
CPM’s Mohammed Salim rose as the Left’s lead speaker. He took a dig at LJP leader
Ram Vilas Paswan who had sauntered in a little leisurely at 12.10 pm. “Paswan has
been in the NDA, he is now in UPA. But when he came did he bring the NDA agenda
with him? We supported Congress on a common agenda, and that had no mention of
the nuclear deal.”
Paswan feebly protested, but that was the only instance of a Congress ally being
targetted by the otherwise surly Left. Their aggression might have been greater but
for the embarrassment of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee defying Left emissaries
urging him to quit before the trust vote. Yet, Salim’s criticism of Congress was
hardhitting while he more or less ignored its allies. There could be subtext to the
courtesy UPA partners and the Left accorded each other on a day when SP’s lead
speaker Ram Gopal Yadav blamed the confrontation over the deal on the ego of ‘‘one
individual’’(read Prakash Karat).


Cong, SP pact to endure storm

New Delhi: The Left speakers were harsh on Congress and SP in the Lok Sabha on
Monday but they preferred not to attack UPA partners. On their part, UPA parties like
the DMK that share an electoral arrangement with the Left, were soft on it. The
DMK’s T R Baalu, for instance, talked about Left’s ‘patriotism’ even as he spoke
against it for being misguided.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad, in his inimitable style, has often enough said that the “Left
bhais’” would return to the UPA fold. His party MP Devendra Yadav was similarly soft
on Monday. The Left is not a very significant factor in Bihar, but it will always count at
the national level in an era of coalition politics. And there was no reason why the RJD
should court the Left’s fury.
The debate itself saw more politics than the specifics of the deal being discussed.
Except for Advani and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, not too many others made
detailed references to the deal, the exceptions being
Mukherjee’s deputy Anand Sharma and science and technology minister Kapil Sibal
who has been a frontline speaker on the deal. For most others, it was politics to the
As the debate progressed, it was evident that it was never going to be about the
merits of the deal itself. Old and new divides were on display as the Left sparred with
the SP. Left speakers also brushed aside Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s
acknowledgement of their support by brusquely observing “we don’t need
certificates’’, only to hear the treasury benches yell back, “Ab Mayawati se le lo (Get
them now from Mayawati).’’ United by their desire to settle a few scores with the SP,
Left and BSP MPs made for strange bedfellows. Having usually viewed the BSP with a
mixture of apprehension and disapproval, Left MPs found themselves nodding when
their new ally spoke of how the two parties would protest the government’s desire to
“mortgage’’ India’s interests to Washington.TNN
MAN OF THE HOUR? The usually reticent PM’s exuberant body language on Monday took many
by surprise


IIT-B chief quits, joins US company

IIT-Bombay director Ashok Misra has quit the post he held for eight years and joined
a Washingtonbased private firm. P 2

Virar commuters run riot:

Rail traffic between Virar and Vasai stations in WR was disrupted for nearly five hours
on Monday as Virar commuters went on the rampage at Virar and Nalasopara
stations. They were upset at being unable to board trains at the starting point. P 5

Life for acid throwers?:

Throwing acid, or even hot water, on anyone may attract a harsh sentence including
life term. The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that it was mulling over a
separate provision in the IPC to make it a serious offence. P 12

More power cuts for industries:

The state on Monday asked industries in the state to face power cuts for 16 to 32
hours at a stretch in a week. P 4
MPT tender postponed:

The MPT on Monday postponed its Rs 402 crore tender, the fourth time since April, to
fill up the Princess and Victoria docks. P 5

Big B loses bags yet again:

Amitabh Bachchan’s checked-in baggage woes continue. He lost his bags yet again,
this time while travelling from Toronto to Trinidad by Air Canada. P 2

Privilege move against Purke:

A privilege motion was filed against education minister Vasant Purke on Monday for
his pro-sex education stand. P 5

Modak Sagar overflows:

Modak Sagar has become the first of the lakes supplying water to the city to
overflow. P 3

Maha drama now in Delhi

Missing MP Keeps Sena Guessing As Parties Go All Out To Ensure Victory

In Tuesday’s Trust Vote
Ambarish Mishra & Somit Sen I TNN

Mumbai: “I don’t know where my father is. He could be present in Parliament during
the trust vote on Tuesday,’’ said Balasaheb, the son of missing Shiv Sena MP from
Parbhani, Tukaram Renge-Patil.
When this correspondent called up Renge-Patil’s official residence at 68, North
Avenue, in New Delhi on Monday, a person close to the family said, “Saheb is not in
Delhi and his whereabouts are not known.’’
The case of the “missing MP’’ has set the alarm bells ringing in the state CID with
key officers pulling out all stops to gather details on the MP’s whereabouts and the
reason of his disappearance. Interestingly, the 50-year-old Renge-Patil is a member
of the Lok Sabha committee on “absence of members from sittings of the House’’.
The Sena is not sure if chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh or revenue minister
Narayan Rane has wooed the Parbhani MP in the run-up to the July 22 trust vote.
The Sena has a strength of 12 MPs in the Lok Sabha and even a single case of
crossvoting or abstention could lead to an embarrassment for the party, said an
Sources in Parbhani said Renge-Patil distanced himself from the Sena as he was
reportedly miffed with the party’s local unit. A Sena legislator told TOI on Monday
that the Congress had for long been making overtures to Renge-Patil. “A prominent
Congress leader from Marathwada has weaned Renge-Patil away from the Sena,’’ he
added. A law graduate from Aurangabad, Renge-Patil is an agriculturist and has also
been a social worker. He was an MLA in the Maharashtra Assembly for two terms, in
1995 and 2004, before being elected to the 14th Lok Sabha. He has been on several
other committees too—human resource development, committee on papers laid on
the table and standing committee on rural development.

Bookies give PM edge in battle royale

S Balakrishnan I TNN

Mumbai: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has some cause for cheer ahead of the
make-or-break trust vote on Tuesday.
Bookies are placing odds of 50 paise on the UPA winning the confidence vote and
Rs 1.75 on Singh being thrown out of office. This means that for every rupee placed
in favour of Singh, the bookie will get Rs 1.50. If the government collapses, then he
stands to get Rs 2.75. Until a few days ago, the odds were 40 paise for Singh and Rs
2.75 against him.
With the political temperature rising in the country over Tuesday’s trust vote,
betting is peaking in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi, Indore, Kolkata, Bangalore
and other cities.
Sources said bookies in Karachi and Dubai, too, have evinced keen interest in the
fate of the government. Police sources pointed out that till late Monday evening,
more than Rs 1,500 crore had been placed on the edge-of-the-seat political drama
that was unfolding in New Delhi.
A leading bookie said the odds for the UPA winning by two votes was 75 paise, by
three votes Re 1, by four votes Rs 1.50 and by five votes and more Rs 5. All leading
bookies, including Sunil Dubai, Sobhan Kalachowkie, Hitesh Samrat, Ajay
Maheshwari, who incidentally lives in the bungalow of a top Bollywood actor in Juhu,
and Laxmi Thana are learnt to be deeply interested in the political drama.
On the role of the police, a leading bookie told TOI on condition of anonymity, “The
police have taken a heavy hit following the closure of matka. The developments in
Delhi are giving them an opportunity to extort huge sums from us. But we do not
mind as we also stand to make major gains on Tuesday.’’
Some of the bookies and their agents are camping in five-star hotels in Delhi not
only to fix the outcome, but also to get inside information. The apparent change of
mind on the part of Ajit Singh and Deve Gowda is being closely watched by the
bookies. Every little move on the political chessboard is being factored in by them.


Does BMC have power to ban hookahs: HC


Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Monday asked the BMC if it had the authority to
ban the serving of hookahs in city restaurants.
“Is there any provision of the law in Maharashtra to ban (the) serving of hookahs?’’
asked a division bench of Justices RMS Khandeparkar and Amjad Sayed, even as the
corporation told the court that it would not implement its circular banning hookah
“The object may be laudable, but it must be reflected in actions,’’ said the bench,
asking the corporation to file an affidavit justifying its stand on the hookah ban.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Khar-based Kosmic restaurant, which
challenged a BMC notice warning it against serving hookahs. Senior advocate Navroz
Seervai and advocate R Nirula represented the restaurant and argued that neither
the BMC nor the state had the powers to ban hookahs.
Seervai pointed out that there was a special law to regulate the use of tobacco—
the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act. “The law, in fact, allows hookahs in
restaurants as long as they have special places designated as smoking areas,’’ said
To substantiate their claim, the lawyers for the restaurant cited the Supreme Court
judgment that lifted the ban on gutka and pan masala in 2004.
In its circular dated July 29, the BMC justified the ban, saying the “consumption or
smoking of hookah is affecting the health of the younger generation, especially
college students.’’ The circular also directed medical officers of every ward to take
action against establishments violating licence conditions and running hookah
parlours on their premises.
Senior advocate A Y Sakhare, counsel for the BMC, argued that action against
hookah parlours were initiated under Section 395 of the BMC Act, which provides for
revoking of licences in the interest of public safety.
The judges, however, were not convinced and asked the BMC advocate whether
there were any guidelines to define public safety. The court scheduled the matter for
further hearing on August 5.

Government keeping watchful eye on section

of Sena MPs
Prafulla Marpakwar I TNN

Mumbai: A day before Tuesday’s trust vote, the Congress-led Democratic Front
government in Maharashtra stepped up vigil around the offices and residences of a
section of Shiv Sena MPs.
A senior home department official on Monday confirmed that special security had
been provided at the residences and offices of some Sena MPs. “We don’t know
whether they will vote in favour of the trust vote or otherwise, but we have provided
security cover for a section of the Shiv Sena MPs,’’ an official said.
Security for Parbhani Sena MP Tukaram Renge Patil has already been stepped up.
Renge Patil did not attend the meeting convened by Sena executive president
Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday and also skipped the meet organised by Sena
parliamentary party leader Anant Gite. “Special security has been provided at his
Parbhani residence and
office,’’ the official said.
According to reports, Renge reached New Delhi via Latur, the hometown of chief
minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, and Hyderabad.
In political circles, word is going around that the Congress is making all possible
efforts to ensure the support of at least 3-4 Sena MPs on Tuesday. Some senior
Congress and NCP leaders have been in touch with the Sena MPs who are said to be
in “two minds”.
The law-enforcing agencies that have provided special security to a section of Sena
MPs refused to identify them.
Significantly, Gite made it clear on Sunday that all Sena MPs were intact and that
they would vote against the UPA government.

War of words & world views

Debate on nuclear deal spills into political mudslinging as parties fight to

gain the edge

Pranab makes a spirited defence

Given the rumours that have repeatedly dogged Pranab Mukherjee about his
commitment to the deal, or whether he was ‘‘soft’’ on the Left, the foreign minister’s
spirited defence of the deal and the government on Monday set the tone for the
government and supporters of the nuclear agreement in the Parliament debate.
Clad in a formal Bengali silk kurta with gold buttons, Pranab made a persuasive
argument for giving India the option to access nuclear energy. The foreign minister
said even a cursory review of the energy scenario in India would show that the
country would need to urgently tap nuclear energy, like France did. Comparing Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh to the then French President Charles de Gaulle, he said the
latter too was faced with similar opposition when he decided to take France towards
nuclear energy. He said that without access to imported nuclear fuel, India would
face an energy deficit of 412 gigawatts (GWe) and a potential coal import of 1.6
billion tonne, which would be an environmental disaster.
He joined issue with Leader of Opposition L K Advani’s description of the UPA
government as being in a minority. Pranab did his ‘‘simple arithmetic’’ to show the
UPA had 276 members on its rolls. He denied Left allegations that the government
had not kept them in the loop. First, he said, this was a more transparent agreement
than any done so far. Defending the government’s decision to keep the draft text of
the safeguards pact from the Left, he said this was part of the procedure followed by
Indian governments for decades. Even the famous Indo-Soviet friendship treaty was
not made public until much later, he said.
Pranab said when he asked the Left to meet on July 10 to wrap up the findings of
the UPALeft panel, the Leftists said that since the PM had announced on the flight to
Japan that they would go to the IAEA soon, they were withdrawing support. The
formal letter from the Left leaders, he said, came at 12.30 pm on July 8. It was after
that the government decided to react. ‘‘Please remember, when it was 12.30 pm in
India, it was only 9 am in Vienna.’’ That was when, he said, the government asked
the IAEA board to convene a meet of the members. He said India as a founding
member of IAEA and a permanent member of its board could not share a confidential
text with people outside the government.
Referring to the Hyde Act, Pranab admitted it contained ‘‘prescriptive’’ sections but
these would not apply to India, which would only be bound by the 123 pact. On
Monday, he characterized India’s IAEA safeguards pact and a potential NSG waiver as
a ‘‘passport and visa’’. ‘‘NSG and IAEA clearances are like passport and visa. It
depends on us whether we travel or not. But if there is no passport we cannot
travel,’’ he said. ‘‘Please, let us have this passport and visa. Then we will decide
whether to travel and if we travel, what should be the destination.’’ Reminding the
BJP of the WTO agreement, Pranab said while the BJP had opposed the Congress on
India joining the WTO, when it had come to power, the WTO pact that went through
was the same that the Congress had drafted, with cosmetic changes.

Advani puts PM in his crosshairs, says Singh alone to blame for crisis

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stood in the direct line of fire as Leader of
Opposition L K Advani held him responsible for the present political crisis.
The India-US nuclear deal had become an ‘‘agreement between two individuals
rather than between two countries’’ making India ‘‘subservient’’ and a ‘‘junior
partner’’, Advani told the House, as he opened the debate on Monday.
Speaking on the confidence motion moved by the PM, the BJP leader accused
Manmohan Singh of having opposed the 1998 Pokhran II tests, triggering an
immediate rebuttal by Singh who said he had only spoken about sanctions and
whether the country was prepared for it.
Advani referred to ‘‘sharp exchanges’’ during that period in Rajya Sabha between
Singh and late BJP leader K R Malkani, but the PM retorted saying let any objective
person read the proceedings and draw his own conclusions.
Singh said his remarks on the tests and the criticisms were made in the context of
sanctions imposed on India after the tests and also in light of India’s stand on non-
‘‘I don’t agree with the Left. We differ on various issues. But if the government is
destabilized after four years and two months...and faces the likelihood of being voted
out... then this situation has been brought about not by opposition NDA or even the
Leftists,’’ Advani said.
‘‘This has been invited by the government itself, and Mr Prime Minister, I am sorry
to say, by you personally,’’ he said, adding that even Left parties ‘‘wanted to prolong’’
‘‘Please don’t blame anyone else. It is your government and in a way you,
personally, and even the Congress president, without whom you would not take a
single step, who are to be blamed. The opposition has played no role in this,’’ Advani
said, claiming that his party would strive to ‘‘defeat the government on the floor of
the House’’. Saying that the situation was entirely brought about by Singh, and not
precipitated by NDA or even Left parties, Advani said people would decide in the next
elections ‘‘even if the government survives tomorrow’’.
Reminding Singh that he had sparked the political impasse with his interview to a
Kolkata newspaper where he had said that if the Left parties wanted to withdraw
support, ‘‘so be it’’, the BJP leader said, ‘‘If the government was so serious about the
(nuclear) deal, why was it not mentioned in the CMP or even the Congress
manifesto. It is a kind of an agreement between
two individuals and one happens to be the PM.’’
Attacking the government for speaking in ‘‘different voices’’, Advani said foreign
minister Pranab Mukherjee had assured the Left that India would approach the IAEA
for the safeguards agreement only after getting the approval of Parliament. But the
PM chose to give a different line and suddenly the draft agreement was sent to the
nuclear watchdog. The draft text was described as ‘‘privileged’’ and ‘‘classified’’ but it
was circulated to IAEA members first.
Clarifying that BJP was not against forging close relations with the US but was
against India being party to a deal which was ‘‘unequal’’, Advani said, ‘‘If people vote
NDA back to power, we will renegotiate the deal to make it equal.” He drew a
distinction between defeating the government and destabilizing it: ‘‘It is not in our
nature to destabilize governments. You may do it with Chandrashekhar’s government
or those of H D Deve Gowda or I K Gujral.’’

Cornered Left cries betrayal

Caught between a ‘‘neo-liberal’’ Congress-led government and a BJP-dominated

opposition it had accused of being communal, the Left on Monday fought back to
define its space in a confusing political landscape.
Participating in the Lok Sabha debate on the motion of confidence, the Left was
clearly on a difficult ground — alienated after its withdrawal of support from the
government without exactly having won a new ally. For the first time in a very long
time, the Left found itself at the receiving end of barbs from the Congress, SP and
the BJP benches. Though Leader of Opposition L K Advani was diplomatic in paying
quite a few compliments to the Left to make use of the Marxists’ new antagonism
towards the government, those guarded praises actually became an acute source of
embarrassment for Left members as he went on talking about the Amarnath shrine,
Vaishnodevi and the government’s alleged reluctance to get proactive in pursuing
terror cases. The Left, however, put up a strong defence of its action charging the
Manmohan Singh government with kowtowing to the Bush administration at the cost
of its allies.
Mohammed Salim (CPM) ascribed the rupture in the Left-UPA relations to the
government’s zeal in entering the US orbit, making a departure from the country’s
time-tested independent foreign policy. He accused the UPA regime of having
‘‘outsourced’’ its foreign policy to the US.
Recalling the glorious tradition of the freedom struggle and the role Congress had
played in that movement, Salim said the government seemed to have sacrificed that
great heritage and was shamelessly kowtowing to the US.
‘‘The question is not of trust but trustworthiness,’’ he said, bluntly charging the
prime minister of ‘‘betraying’’ the Left. He wondered why the government was in
such a hurry in pushing the nuclear agreement when it had not been part of the
common minimum programme on the basis of which the Left had extended support
to the UPA regime. ‘‘It was not even part of the Congress manifesto,’’ he pointed out.

‘‘Was the CMP signed with George W Bush?’’ he asked. Defending his party’s
decision to pull out from the ruling coalition, he said that the challenge at the
moment was to save the country from both the ‘‘deal and dealers’’. He, however,
made it clear that for the Left, the BJP could never be an ally because of its
‘‘communal agenda’’. He said for the Left, fighting ‘‘imperialism’’ was as important as
taking on communal forces.
Salim said that the government was duty-bound to explain why it had ‘‘betrayed’’ a
friend for a tie-up with ‘‘sinister forces’’.
SINGH ON SONG | PM exudes confidence before the Parliament debate on Monday

Mohammad Salim

A legislative foray into executive power?

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

In the past, Parliament has seen many a confidence motion on political as well as
non-political issues, but never before has a treaty—stemming from the country’s
foreign policy—been central to a trust motion, which the Manmohan Singh
government moved in the House on Monday.
The capacity to enter into a treaty with another country, conferred on the Centre
by Article 73 of the Constitution, falls squarely under the sovereign executive power
that requires no ratification by Parliament. So, by making the India-US nuclear deal
the core issue of the motion, is the PM setting a precedent that henceforth, even
treaties should get a stamp of approval from Parliament?
And, would this step to seek trust vote on a matter that fell squarely within the
foreign policy realm erode the sovereign executive power, which the Centre has
enjoyed under Article 73 of the Constitution unhindered since the blue book came
into force on January 26, 1950? The fears don’t impress constitutional experts, who
are unanimous that though treaties entered into by the government don’t need
ratification by Parliament, the latter is entitled to debate and discuss any such
bilateral agreement if its contents affect the nation vitally.
Former attorney-general Soli Sorabjee and constitutional experts K K Venugopal
and Rajeev Dhawan said the Manmohan Singh government’s move reflected the
supremacy of Parliament when it came to matters of national importance, treaty or
no treaty. Dhawan, however, threw up an interesting question — Why did the
government put its neck on the line along with the treaty by moving a confidence
vote, when it could have sought the mandate of the House on the treaty alone?
Sorabjee said, ‘‘Even though the Constitution may not require Parliament to ratify
the treaty, there is no bar on the House or majority members thereof to seek
accountability from the government on important issues which are central to a
treaty.’’ ‘‘It isn’t necessary for the government to seek ratification of a treaty from
Parliament, but keeping in view the importance and consequences of the deal it
would only be prudent to put it before Parliament. It would not amount to erosion of
the executive treaty making power of the government.’’
Venugopal doesn’t think that there is any constitutional or legal impediment for a
government to seek Parliament’s view on an issue as important as the N-deal. ‘‘All
issues which affect the nation can legitimately be debated in Parliament. The fact
that a treaty, unlike in the US, need not be ratified by Parliament doesn’t mean that
it’s beyond the scope of debate and discussion in Parliament. In this case, the
government itself volunteered to move a trust motion on this issue and the matter is
beyond the pale of controversy.’’
Dhawan said, ‘‘The government committed harakiri by moving a trust motion on
the N-deal. It could well have put the deal on debate and put it to vote. If the
majority had okayed it, then the government could have gone ahead. But by moving
a trust vote on the treaty, the government has put its neck on the line along with the
fate of the deal.’’
Mayawati steals Advani’s thunder with SP

Ignoring BJP Leader’s Speech In Lok Sabha, Media Rush to BSP Chief’s
Briefing On Defections, Iran Pipeline

New Delhi: In a press conference that was as significant for its timing as for its
content, BSP chief Mayawati on Monday demanded that the government suspend the
Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and leave it for the next government to deal with after
the elections.
The UP chief minister’s press conference started barely five minutes after BJP
leader L K Advani began to speak in Parliament on the trust vote. Before the press
meet, it had been quietly let out that the BSP leader would parade some more SP
MPs who had switched sides. Hence, the media, especially TV, was present at
Mayawati’s briefing in full strength.
Whether the timing was intended to steal Advani’s thunder or not, some TV
channels switched to Mayawati’s conference in anticipation of news on SP defectors.
In short, the focus was off the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
Going a step further than both the BJP and the Left, which have been accusing the
government of misleading the country on the N-deal, the BSP leader claimed that the
deal would actually compromise India’s energy security.
The deal was being pushed through in haste, Mayawati claimed, because once it
was done, the US would be looking to launching military action against Iran.
Accusing the government of reducing India to a “slave” of the US, the Dalit leader
said the deal would hamper India’s plans for an Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline,
‘‘which was crucial for the country’s future power generation plans’’.
She also pointed out that fears of an armed conflict between the US (or Israel) and
Iran were among the major reasons for the rising oil prices and inflation. The entire
world would have to bear the consequences of such a conflict, Mayawati added.
“India will be held responsible if this happens,” she said while asserting that it would
only make matters worse for the common man.
Unlike the Left or BJP, she went a step beyond merely accusing the government of
neglecting an important issue like inflation in its zeal for pursuing the N-deal. By
linking the two, she effectively argued that the N-deal would add to inflation.
While the reference to Iran was at one level perceived as an appeal to Muslim
sentiments, it was clear that the BSP supremo was looking at more than just a
narrow sectional appeal in her meeting with mediapersons.

Somnath’s tension with party, Karat reaches

breaking point

CPM May Expel Defiant Speaker


New Delhi: Those watching Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee at work on
Monday could have hardly guessed that he is at the centre of a raging controversy
and his party is considering serious action against the veteran politician.
The Speaker was his usual ebullient self, presiding over the special session of Lok
Sabha with jokes and admonitions galore.
However, Chatterjee’s cool demeanour has left many in the CPM squirming. His is
the first defiance by a senior leader against general secretary Prakash Karat. He
could even get expelled from the party once the short Lok Sabha session for the
trust vote is over.
The party wanted the Speaker quit his post before the trust vote but Chatterjee
refused to do so, arguing that the Speaker’s post was above politics. Now, the CPM is
hoping that he will step down after Tuesday’s vote.
On Sunday evening, a last ditch attempt was made by West Bengal state secretary
Biman Bose to reason out with Chatterjee to toe the party line. It didn’t work, as a
gleeful Chatterjee was back with official business on Monday.
Apart from his public defiance, no one in the party knows what Chatterjee has in
mind. Will he resign once the debate gets over? Will he exercise the casting vote
against the government in case of a tie? Or will Chatterjee just continue to occupy
the Speaker’s seat? One thing, however, is clear — whatever he does now, he has
antagonised the CPM leadership beyond repair.
The party has already made up its mind about him. The overwhelming view in the
central committee meeting that concluded on Sunday was that he needed to be
disciplined. The CC agreed with Karat’s stand that talk of Speaker sans party and
politics was hypocritical. The final decision in this regard has been left to the
politburo. Publicly, the party continues to maintain that the decision has been left to
Chatterjee but the knives are out for him.
What has further embarrassed the party is news of Chatterjee planning to travel
abroad for a conference as Speaker of Lok Sabha in early August. Action against him
is likely to take place before that. If he is indeed expelled from the party,
he can continue as Speaker as long as the government lasts as an independent
member of the House.
Meanwhile, the veteran parliamentarian facing his party’s ire had his family — wife
Renu Chatterjee flanked by daughters Anuradha and Anushila — for company on
Monday, seated in the Speaker’s gallery to cheer him. This could well be the last
session that Chatterjee conducts in the Lok Sabha, if he decides to resign from the

Party Wants Answers From Chief

Akshaya Mukul | TNN

New Delhi: A day before the crucial CPM Central Committee meeting began on
Saturday, a rumour emanated from Kolkata and a section of AKG Bhavan that the
party’s highest body would put an end to general secretary Prakash Karat’s
misadventure on the nuclear deal especially the decision to vote against the
government along with BJP.
In the name of the so-called ‘‘Bengal line’’, many insiders pointed to how Karat
mishandled the situation
and pushed his line. In a conspiratorial tone, few even said the defiance by West
Bengal transport minister Subhash Chakraborty was triggered by the Bengal
leadership. But the list of complaints against Karat was long. Why did he trust the
government’s word on the safeguards pact? Why did SP leave the Left bandwagon?
What happened to Karat’s stand of ‘no deal, no government’? If all this was not
enough, a leader derisively summed up tango with Mayawati as, ‘‘Sab Maya hai.’’
However, Karat’s action, especially the unthinkable move of driving down to
Mayawati’s house, was up for the CC endorsement. ‘‘The anti-deal group got
emboldened to take on the government in the numbers game only after Left-BSP
leaders met,’’ says a CPM leader.
The CC meeting was Karat’s moment of reckoning, of establishing himself as a
streetsmart politician who could handle a maverick Mayawati, hard-bargainer Ajit
Singh and unpredictable Deve Gowda. A leader says this CC meeting was almost
similar to the one held last September when most of the 70-odd members wanted
CPM to withdraw support and vote against the government.
In the meeting, Karat explained how the government betrayed Left despite the
latter’s attempt to be reasonable and how CPM could not have avoided taking the
extreme step just because it could result in an election. An early election would make
no difference but compromising with imperialism would take away the lynchpin of the
party’s existence, he said. The CC agreed with him and endorsed the withdrawal
decision. It also authorised the politburo to have an alliance with parties like BSP,
RLD, TDP and JD(S). The CC also decided to publicly censure Chakraborty and left it
to the politburo to firm up action against Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
But there are questions that many in CPM want addressed. Is CPM happy with
allegations of horse trading against Mayawati also? Doesn’t it compromise Left’s
stand on clean politics? Can it be the foundation of a long relationship with BSP?
Doesn’t tying up with BSP and others compromise Karat’s vision of an issue and
programmebased third alternative? Above all, if the government survives the trust
vote Karat’s aim of ‘no deal, no government’ stands shattered.

LOOKING AHEAD? Somnath Chatterjee arrives at Parliament on Monday

Stargazers predict victory for PM

Atul Sethi | TNN

In case the government survives the trust vote on Tuesday, Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh can probably thank his stars. Literally.
Based on the planetary configurations in the PM’s birthchart, most astrologers are
unanimous in proclaiming that the government would be able to sail through the
motion, although they differ on the level of difficulty that the Congress party and the
government are likely to face thereafter.
According to astrologer M Sivagurunathan, who accurately predicted the margin of
Pratibha Patil’s victory in the presidential election last year, the chances of the
government’s survival are quite high in the trust vote. However, he adds that it will
be able to scrape through only by a very narrow margin.
“The planet Jupiter is favourably placed in Manmohan Singh’s horoscope. This will
protect him against the Saturn and Mars combination, that is in the 10th cuspal point
from his ascendant, because of which he is facing this situation,” he says. In fact,
according to Sivagurunathan, the Prime Minister will be able to complete his full
term, after the trust vote – a prediction which is not shared fully by Satish Sharma,
national vice-president of the Indian Council of Astrological Sciences.
According to Sharma, Manmohan Singh's position is secure only till September.
While he agrees that the Prime Minister’s birth chart, when seen in conjunction with
the country's horoscope indicate that there is no danger of the government toppling
over today, there is every possibility of it happening after September.
“Currently, the planet Jupiter is strong in Manmohan Singh’s horoscope. In
addition, Saturn, which is in Leo, is protecting the 10th house in the country’s chart,
which indicates that the government’s prestige would be saved. However, this
position will not continue after September and there is every possibility that the
government would not be able to complete its full term and elections will have to be
preponed,” he says.
Delhi based astrologer Naveen Khanna, doesn’t believe that this will happen,
although he says that the next 45 days are crucial for the government. “In
determining the fate of the government, the country’s horoscope is important, since
it reflects the destinies of a billion people.
“The natal position of the sun and ketu in India’s chart hints at the possibility of a
mysterious development occurring during voting today, like last minute switching of
loyalties etc. But, in spite of that, there is a 70% chance of the government pulling
through and surviving thereafter,” he says.
Finally, Sharma adds another prediction which might make Singh breathe a little
more easier, “One of the important political parties may withdraw from voting today
and the benefit of this would go to the government.”
While the stargazers have given their verdict, how the tide turns will finally decide
whether the Prime Minister thanks his stars or sees them spinning over his head. In
any case, the answer is only a few hours away.

NDA demands one more day, Speaker says

Bhaskar Roy | TNN

New Delhi: The two-day special session of the Lok Sabha that got under way on
Monday to enable the government to seek a trust vote could have been extended by
another day if the Opposition NDA had its way.
At a meeting of the group leaders in the House convened by Speaker Somnath
Chatterjee an hour before the debate opened, some NDA representatives demanded
that the session be stretched by a day to give more time to the parties to discuss
different aspects of the nuclear agreement in detail. They pointed out that 12 hours
spread over two days was not enough to allow the entire political spectrum to have
its say on the issue. The Speaker, however, turned down the proposal pointing out
that at this stage, it wasn’t possible to alter the schedule.
In an unusually packed House, the attendance was impressive — more than 90%.
Out of the effective House strength of 542, 466 members signed the register. That,
of course, excluded the ministers who are not required to sign. Some of the ailing
members who did not come on the opening day are expected to turn up to vote on
Tuesday. Among them are former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee and his BJP colleague
According to the arrangement made, Congress, being the single largest party, has
been allocated a little over three hours. The main Opposition BJP gets a little less
than three hours. The CPM has been given 52 minutes. As per the convention, it has
been left to the individual parties to decide how many speakers they would field
within the allocated time. On the first day, a dozen-odd members spoke from
different sides.
Among them were PM Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition L K Advani, House
leader Pranab Mukherjee, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav and MoS for external affairs,
Anand Sharma.

BJP leaders Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar outside the House

shooting from the lip

The UPA, Congress, Sonia Gandhi and the PM don’t believe in coalition dharma. I’ve never
seen a session like this where we will discuss whether a minority government should be there
L K Advani |
Pandit Nehru died in 1964 and the NPT came into force in 1970. (On Advani’s remark that
there was a shift from the strong opposition that Nehru had for the NPT)
Pranab Mukherjee |

According to the govt, the Common Minimum Programme can go to hell. All it wants to do now
is to implement the Uncommon Maximum Programme... We’ve to save ourselves from the deal

Mohd Salim | CPM

The deal is open and based on equality and won’t be influenced by any country. There’s no
mention either in the IAEA (safeguards text) or 123 Agreement that India can’t do nuclear test

Anand Sharma |
Cost of N-energy would be Rs 17 (per unit). Who’s going to pay? The government has failed
on all fronts... Who’s happy to live in a well of discrimination (on the US sanction after Pokhran
Bhartruhari Mahtab |

The Left wanted the UPA government to be a govt of consensus, not of unilateralism. I oppose
the trust motion with a heavy heart... Elections are knocking on the doors
Gurudas Dasgupta |

East India Company ruled India for 300 years. If the deal is signed, India will be ‘gulam’ for
another 600 years... The deal will not carry India towards light, but towards darkness
Shahnawaz Hussain |
I would request all the MPs to conduct themselves in a dignified manner. There is a proper way
to have discussions (When SP and BSP MPs almost came to blows over Ram Gopal Yadav’s
Somnath Chatterjee |

Pak behind Kabul blast: Menon

Unusually Tough Words To Visitor Could Peril Future Of Composite

Indrani Bagchi | TNN

New Delhi: India on Monday risked the future of the composite dialogue with
Pakistan by directly accusing it of causing the suicide blast in the embassy in Kabul.
Taking an unusually tough line against Pakistan, foreign secretary Shiv Shankar
Menon told journalists after launching the fifth round of composite dialogue with his
Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir, “All our information in the ongoing
investigation points to elements in Pakistan being behind the blast.”
Menon’s unusually strong statements come days after national security adviser M K
Narayanan revealed that Pakistan’s ISI was suspected as teaming up with the Taliban
to activate the blast. The fact that Menon chose the foreign secretaries’ dialogue to
say this is significant. Bashir said the NSA’s comments had caused “disquiet in
Pakistan. It is imperative to refrain from the blame game. Pakistan was among the
first to condemn the attack. I asked India to provide intelligence or evidence.”
Menon said the meeting was important because the “composite dialogue was under
stress”. Recent incidents, he said, had “vitiated” the atmosphere. India has not
confirmed whether there will be any meeting between Pakistan PM Yousaf Gillani and
PM Manmohan Singh in Colombo during SAARC, neither has it announced any dates
for the antiterror meet, which is now virtually defunct. Kabul drove the final nail on
the joint anti-terror mechanism coffin.
Menon said there were three pillars to the improved relations with Pakistan—
absence of violence, addressing all outstanding issues and creating a cooperative
On all three counts, the relationship now comes up short. He listed these as the
ceasefire violations, increased infiltration and, interestingly, “incitement of violence
within the Indian state of J&K”.
Menon said there had been a lot of hope pinned on the new government in
Islamabad, but things look very different after the recent incidents. For his part, the
Pakistan foreign secretary said, “I wouldn’t characterize the dialogue in this manner.
It is very much on track and has tremendous potential. I thought we had built
sufficient understanding to address concerns meaningfully.”
The ceasefire violations by Pakistan have serious implications. If India decides to
retaliate, Pakistan will have huge problems of manning two borders simultaneously.
The ceasefire with India has given Pakistan the space to deploy more troops on its
western and northern flanks. That space would shrink.
Clearly, a lot of water has flowed in Indo-Pakistan relations recently, for the UPA
government to take such a tough stand against Pakistan. This was a government
that started the joint anti-terror mechanism with Pakistan based on the premise that
the western neighbour too was a victim of terrorism. After the Mumbai blasts, India
has been careful from even blaming Pakistan for the subsequent terror attacks,
particularly Jaipur. It was in September 2006 that Menon told journalists, “After all,
the Pakistan government has suffered from terrorism. You have seen attacks on
Pakistan civilians, on Pakistani leaders by terrorists. You have seen the same thing in

COLD COMFORT? Foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon with his Pakistani counterpart Salman
Bashir in New Delhi on Monday


Three PMs survived floor test

Vajpayee Holds A Unique Record Of Having Faced The Maximum — Three


New Delhi: Some trust votes have gone right to the wire. Ask former Prime Minister
Atal Bihari Vajpayee and he will tell you. Vajpayee, the veteran BJP leader, who holds
the record of moving the maximum trust motions—1996, 1998 and 1999—witnessed
the narrowest defeat the last time. His government lost by a solitary vote—269 to
On the other hand, some trust votes have had wide margins. While some PMs won
or lost it comprehensively, others didn’t have the heart to face it and resigned even
before the ballot. Of the eight trust votes in the nearly three decades since 1979,
only three PMs survived, and five others either lost the vote or had to resign before
the ballot.
Manmohan Singh on Monday became the sixth prime minister since 1979 to face a
trust vote in Parliament.
The no-confidence motion was moved for the first time way back in 1979. The then
PM Charan Singh never faced the House and resigned.
A decade later, VP Singh became the PM in December 1989. He won the motion
that time but lost another in November 1990, beaten 142-to-346.
Chandra Shekhar, who succeeded Singh, won a trust motion in 1990 but resigned
five months later after the Congress withdrew support to his government. PM P V
Narasimha Rao then won the confidence vote in July 1991—265 to 251—and his
government went on to last the full five-year term.
In June 1996, H D Deve Gowda, as the head of the United Front government, won
a trust motion but lost it 10 months later when Congress again withdrew support to
his government.
I K Gujral won the vote of confidence in April 1997 as PM of the United Front
government but resigned seven months later after losing majority support. In 1996,
Vajpayee, heading the NDA government, resigned on the floor of the House before
the confidence motion could be put to vote, admitting he did not have the numbers
in his favour.
Manmohan Singh will be the first prime minister who will not vote on a trust
motion since he is not a member of the Lok Sabha.
It is also the first time since 1989 when a PM will be seeking a trust vote after four
years in office. Six PMs starting from V P Singh had faced a trust vote within the first
two years in office.

Jailbirds spice up a humdrum day


New Delhi: It was a cosy domestic scene. A husband and wife reunited after a
longish separation exchanging a few notes. The wife animated, the man indulgent.
They accepted the odd greeting in passing but seemed quite alone in a noisy crowd
of 450-odd people.
The trust vote was a bit of break for RJD’s jailed MP Rajesh Ranjan or “Pappu”
Yadav, who seemed to be enjoying his brief spell of freedom in Lok Sabha on
Monday. Shipped in from AIIMS where he has been ensconsed for “medical” reasons,
Pappu looked in robust health. It could even be said jail has suited him.
As he chatted with wife Ranjeeta Ranjan, an LJP MP, Pappu made good use of the
little services available in the House, a glass of water or a note to scribble on. Apart
from a sense of relief of being in the open, it was entirely possible that a recent visit
by SP MP Amar Singh had boosted the spirits of the two-some. After all, the SP
leader said Pappu had been in jail too long. If there was a vote involved, it was
surely incidental.
Pappu wasn’t the only jailbird in Lok Sabha. Another Bihar MP, Mohammed
Shahabuddin, was in the House as well. He wasn’t looking as prosperous as Pappu,
but “Shahabu” didn’t appear to be doing too badly either. He sat quietly taking in the
proceedings, perhaps his first “outing” to Delhi since he found himself in jail in Siwan
when RJD lost power in Bihar.
More jailbirds are expected to turn up on Tuesday, but it was apparent that not
many MPs were prepared to socialise with their “tainted” brethren. RJD MP Devendra
Yadav briefly squeezed Pappu’s arm, but that was all.
The debate did not rise to any heights and there were a few shouting matches, but
no gripping clash of words. But the animosities did run deep. Though she did not, as
is usual, react to what BJP leader L K Advani was saying, Congress chief Sonia
Gandhi’s body language, gestures and asides to Sharad Pawar and Pranab Mukherjee
were enough to indicate her disdain.
“That is what we are doing”, she seemed to say when Advani asked whether the
government had made any effort to generate a concensus on the Indo-US nuclear
There were a few who took the debate, for all its mediocrity, seriously enough.
Industrialist Rahul Bajaj remained seated in the Rajya Sabha gallery. The interest of
others like NCP’s Supriya Sule and DMK’s Kanimozhi flagged after an hour or so.
Some veterans like SP’s Mohan Singh, stuck it out in the House, but they could be
described as parliamentary addicts—not many MPs can summon up similar devotion
to duty.
The flashes of anger surfaced every now and again, but were more for effect than
anything else. Except for an ugly moment when BSP’s Akbar Ahmed “Dumpy” rushed
to the well, and forced an adjournment, proceedings did not spin out of hand. Even
in Dumpy’s case, it was interesting to see Akhilesh Yadav, son of SP chief Mulayam
Singh Yadav, reach in front to squeeze the BSP MP’s shoulders in a placatory gesture.

As has been the case earlier, an understanding of the nuclear deal was fairly
limited. Some MPs like BSP’s Brajesh Pathak said as much, pointing out he had
overheard a member claiming the deal would result in “two tonnes of electricity”. On
an earlier occasion, a Shiv Sena MP’s repeated references to “babaji” mystified the
House till it became apparent that he was talking of Dr Homi Bhabha.
(From left) Atiq Ahmed, Pappu Yadav and Mohd Shahabuddin arrive in Parliament on Monday

BJP’s one-vote defeat in 1999 narrowest in


New Delhi: It has got to be the most famous no-confidence motion in Indian
Parliament. No government before had lost its majority by one vote and it appears
unlikely this can happen again. But the Vajpayee government did lose the day on
April 17, 1999, only to dramatically return to power a few months later. But that is
another story.
The morning began with BSP promising then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee that its MPs
would support the government. It was around 10.45 am. A short while later, MPs
began to file into the House. The tension was palpable. There was an electric
undercurrent as government managers anxiously trawled the aisles, eyes darting
from one side to another.
The House was soon called to order. It was time for BSP leader Mayawati to speak.
She rose and said she would be opposing the government. A babble broke out as
BSP MPs Arif Khan and Akbar Ahmed applauded and the numbers began to go
against the government.
The final honours were done by Saifuddin Soz who defied his party, the National
Conference, to vote against the government and Orissa CM Giridhar Gamang also
pressing the no button. Despite having been CM for a couple of months, Gamang
was yet to resign from the Lok Sabha and used his dubious privilege to vote against.
Gamang has been somewhat shy to take credit for his act but Soz sees himself as a
cause celebre in having brought down a “communal” government.
There were other significant aspects to the dramatic vote. The government’s chief
troubleshooter Pramod Mahajan had tried hard to chase down every vote, but the
nature of the highly polarised House made it difficult to scrape the numbers.
The mood in the Prime Minister’s office in Parliament in the aftermath of the defeat
was predictably glum. Some BJP supporters tried to collar Mahajan and accuse him
of letting down the party.
When the one vote difference did show up on the Lok Sabha’s screens that
afternoon, the House was briefly stunned into silence before the Opposition’s whoops
of delight. In the PM’s seat, Vajpayee took one look at the results and raised his hand
to his forehead in mock salute. There was no denying the digital numbers flashing
overhead. But his effort to stay stoic gave away when late Vijayaraje Scindhia,
mother of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, broke down in the PM’s office in
the Parliament building. Even as Vajpayee comforted her, he had trouble staying
calm himself.

Parliament debates the fate of the



Switch to presidential system

The recent phase of political instability at the Centre raises fundamental questions
about our parliamentary democracy. Has the time come to think beyond the
Westminster model that India has followed since independence? The experience of
coalition governments in the recent past is a clear indication that India should
seriously consider a presidential system of government.
If electoral trends since 1989 are any indication, the era of single-party
governments is over. Coalitions — they could even be a post-election arrangement of
ideologically disparate parties as in the case of the UPA-Left coalition — are unlikely
to provide stable governance. The Westminster model evolved in a particular context
and history. The British experience is hardly good enough to be seen as a universal
model. The presidential model, as in countries like the US, evolved later.
The Indian Constitution, which has borrowed a lot from the American experience
with democracy, conceives of India as a union of states. However, the Westminster
model subverts this idea in practice. Too much of power is concentrated in a weak
Centre. The decline of national parties has helped smaller parties with limited
agendas — regional, ethnic and religious — to dictate the terms of governance. Such
a government can hardly claim to be representative of all of India. The constraints of
parliamentary democracy are such that the prime minister is not always a leader
with a pan-Indian appeal. He is elected by legislators of a party or is the compromise
choice of a post-poll political coalition. He may not even be a Lok Sabha MP, as has
sometimes been the case.
A strong Centre with a president and states with more federal powers is the way
forward for India. A presidential system will ensure that the head of the nation is
elected directly by the people with a mandate for a fixed term. Of course, he will be
accountable to both Houses of Parliament during his term. This would ensure stability
in government and prevent horse-trading in politics.


Parliament serves us well

Tara Gupta

In the run-up to the trust vote in Parliament, many accusations of immoral conduct
have been thrown around, including those of horse-trading. Several commentators
have seized this opportunity to wax eloquent about the relative merits of the
presidential system and advocated that India switch from its current Westminster-
style parliamentary democracy to an American-influenced presidential form.
However, they ignore basic Indian realities that make the parliamentary system the
only option for governance in this country.
Think of all the pitfalls that could come out of switching to a presidential system.
We would be concentrating all that power in the hands of one person. Sure, we’d get
stability, but at what price? Many emerging societies have tried presidential forms of
government, and given up democracy in the bargain. Do we really want to exchange
an admittedly chaotic but functioning system for one that may give us a dictator?
Yes, the dictates of coalition politics mean that governments are more vulnerable
in a parliamentary system. The single largest party may not be able to form the
government at the Centre without support from smaller parties, who might then hold
the government hostage to their demands. But the answer to this is to make the
functioning of the Parliament more transparent. We don’t need to take the drastic
step of switching our form of government to weed out corruption from the system.
In a country as large and diverse as India, it is imperative that various minority
interests are represented in the decision-making process. The smaller parties that
enter into coalition with one of the two large, so-called national parties represent the
interests of many sections of society that would otherwise be on the margins. There
is little chance of all these people getting their voices heard in a system that will be
dominated by one person. A parliamentary system is necessary for the interests of
all Indians to be represented.

The Gulf boom goes bust

High Inflation Pops The Excess & Success Bubble, Driving Immigrant
Workers Away

Cairo: Just as Persian Gulf cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi were becoming
synonymous with excess and success, the Gulf boom is in danger of going bust.
Instead of conjuring images of towering skyscrapers and indoor ski slopes, they are
struggling with soaring inflation rates.
Indeed, the Gulf region may want to position itself at the centre of global
capitalism, but it will first have to contend with the impact that skyrocketing energy
costs and a cooling global economy are having on the local economy.
High inflation is causing concern among policymakers in the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC), a regional organization that includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain,
Qatar, Oman, and the UAE. In June, inflation in Egypt, the most populous Arab
country, hit a 19-year high of 20.2%. Saudi Arabia also saw a 30-year inflation high
of 9% in May.
To make matters worse, five of the six GCC members, peg their currencies to the
US dollar. As its values drops, their inflationary woes grow, and the sustainability of
economic growth in the Gulf is brought into question.
Previously, the prosperity of Gulf states such as Bahrain and Qatar came from the
soaring price of oil. But now, rising oil prices are spurring further inflation. According
to Rasheed Mohamed Al Maraj, the chairman of the Central Bank of Bahrain, 50% of
the world’s oil reserves can be found in the GCC countries. Over the last 12 months,
the price of oil has risen dramatically. As a result, Gulf-region economies have been
growing at a rate of 5 to 7% a year for the last several years.
But as Al Maraj explains, this price hike is exacerbating the region’s inflation woes.
“[The price of oil] creates pressure on the economy and is bound to create inflation,”
he says.
To combat possible food shortages, some states are looking abroad to lease large
tracts of farmland that are more fertile and less expensive to maintain than land in
the Gulf region.
The worst affected are noncitizen labourers, who rely on public services to survive.
“In the Gulf, part of what creates this pressure is the huge influx of manpower to
service our countries,” says Al Maraj. He adds that the demand for public assistance
is growing faster than the government can dole it out.
For some migrant workers, inflationary pressure is less acute because the
companies that hire them pay for key items like food and transportation. But inflation
remains a significant problem for those whose families back home demand more
remittances to meet rising prices.
“Our salaries were low to begin with,” says A Sridhar, an Indian national who works
as a waiter in Abhu Dhabi, and earns 500 dirhams each month. “I’m sending all my
money back home so that my family can afford food… I used to send 300 to 400
dirhams home and keep the rest for transport and medicine.”
In the face of such pressures, Gulf states scramble to address the downside of
rising oil profits. “We have to be careful how we think about growth,” says Khalid
Abdulla-Janahi, the chairman of Bahrain’s Ithmaar Bank. “This is about people, and
the majority are suffering.” CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

BALANCING ACT: Migrant workers at a construction site in Dubai. The high inflation in GCC
states has significantly slashed the remittances labourers send back home

Home states’ success lures back labourers

Dubai: The UAE construction industry is facing an acute shortage of construction
workforce, as Indian workers prefer to stay home as a result of economic boom and
rising salaries, according to a latest report.
The Gulf region, struggling with soaring inflation rates, may want to position itself
at the centre of global capitalism, but it will first have to contend an impoverished
migrant labour force.
Nearly 43% of all foreign workers in the UAE are Indians and a number of them
are in the construction industry. Lately, Asian nations have seen economic growth,
improved career opportunities and higher wages.
According to Hewitt Associates, salaries in India in 2007 were expected to grow at
14%, with a similar rise in 2006. The UAE, in comparison, saw a rise of 10.7% in
2007, a marginal rise from 10.3% in 2006.
Based on the estimates of MEED magazine, in 2005 an Indian earning Rs 3,000-
5,000 in the Gulf could earn twice as much as he could at home by signing up to a
contract in the Gulf cooperation council. In 2008, he could earn Rs 10,000 a month
in India, while wages in the Gulf are the same, thus reducing the incentive to work
overseas. PTI

Confident, Manmohan led UPA says it has the


Is the crisis of confidence over for Congress led government?

Confident UPA says they have more than the requisite numbers to
back its claim to stay in power. On today's agenda in Parliament is
Rahul Gandhi's address and the final trust vote at about 6 in this

New Delhi: Visibly more relaxed than all of last week, the Congress-led United
Progressive Alliance (UPA) asserted that it had the numbers to clear the trust vote. "The
government is going to sail through the trust vote. Wait and see," said at least two
cabinet ministers.

Four BJP MPs from Karnataka — Manorama Madhvaraj, Basvana Goud Patil, HT Sangliana
and Manjunath Kannur — have reportedly pledged support to help the government clear
the vote, top sources in government said.

They also claimed that three Shiv Sena MPs and three from the Akali Dal had also
promised to vote for the government. Of them, one, the Shiv Sena MP from Parbhani,
had pledged his support to the UPA on Monday.

Although the Congress claimed it had more than 277 MPs in a house of 545, the effective
strength of those present and voting is unlikely to cross 540. Of them, 15 MPs could
abstain leading to a halfway mark of 263. The UPA is, thus, calculating it will have 14
more MPs than needed.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Mizo National Front MP Vanlalzawma
today said they would abstain from voting during the confidence motion in Parliament
tomorrow, reports PTI.

But there were other reasons for the government's confidence. The Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) leader and putative Prime Minister LK Advani clearly said that his party did
not want to destabilise the government, only defeat it.

"Whether elections are announced tomorrow or six months later, it really doesn't matter.
The point is that the government is in the Intensive Care unit (ICU)," said LK Advani.

BJP MPs interpreted this to mean that the party was not ready to pull the rug from under
the government's feet just yet for fear that the biggest beneficiary of this would be
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati. Top BJP leaders confessed they wanted to do
nothing that would hasten the exit of disgruntled MPs from their party to the Mayawati

Although the Left, which withdrew support to the government last month, was not as
charitably disposed towards the government as the BJP — opening speaker Mohammad
Saleem's speech was trenchant on the Congress for the trail of broken promises it had
left behind in the four years of its association with the Left parties — the attack was
reserved for the prime minister.

Not once was Congress President Sonia Gandhi's name mentioned by the Communist
Party of India (Marxist), the biggest of the Left parties in Parliament, suggesting it could
revive the relationship later provided Manmohan Singh was not in the picture.

The Congress on its part repeatedly referred to the role played by the four Left parties in
1977 and 1988 (when they shared a platform with the BJP), asking them not to repeat
the same mistake. The prime minister referred with evident respect to two CPI M
stalwarts, Jyoti Basu and Harkishan Singh Surjeet, suggesting they could be the model
for younger leaders.

Advani validates deal

In his speech Advani was critical of the Congress but not of the United States. He said he
would have been happy to do a nuclear deal with the US but not one that made India

But BJP MPs said his speech lacked bite. The confidence vote ends tomorrow with the
prime minister's reply. Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram will be fielded by the Congress


‘Dark Knight’ sets record with $155.34m opening

The Dark Knight took in a record $155.34 million in its first weekend, topping the
previous best of $151.1 million for Spider-Man 3 in May 2007 and pacing Hollywood
to its biggest weekend ever, according to studio estimates on Sunday. “We knew it
would be big, but we never expected to dominate the marketplace like we did,” said
Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros. The movie should shoot past the
$200 million mark by the end of the week, he said.

Doherty’s home burgled:

Singer Pete Doherty has been left devastated after thieves raided his residence. The
rocker was touring Spain with his band Babyshambles when his home in Wiltshire,
England was ransacked. Among the items stolen were a $2,000 guitar and three
paintings Doherty created with his own blood. Doherty was jailed for six months in
2003 for burgling the flat of his former Libertines bandmate Carl Barat.

Connery leaves son out of will:

Actor Sean Connery has refused to include his son Jason in his will as he wants him
to learn to provide for himself, according to the star’s ex-wife. Diane Cilento, who
was married to Connery for 11 years before they divorced in 1973, alleges Connery
got angry with his son, who now works as an actor and director, when he threatened
to disown the family name.

Madge, A-Rod in sex-tape scandal:

A cameraman claims that he has in his possession a sex tape of pop icon Madonna
and baseball star A-Rod. He is willing to sell the tape to the highest bidder, with the
selling price starting at a whopping £1 million. The footage, he claims, was shot with
a hidden camera in an apartment Madge and Rodriguez used for clandestine trysts in
the afternoon. But legal experts say that the plan could backfire for the man himself,
for he could end up facing prosecution for voyeurism and burglary, reported the Daily

Parrot alerts family to blaze:

A British homeowner plans to reward his pet parrot after it saved them from a fire by
frantically squawking to wake them up, a report said on Monday. Bob, an African
grey, may even get a new mate after raising the alarm as the blaze took hold early
Sunday morning. The blaze broke out in the kitchen, but as it spread into the lounge,
Bob’s squawking became increasingly desperate,
waking up the entire family.

100-year-old lobster found:

A giant lobster that has been caught off the British coast could be 100 years old,
according to experts. At 5.8 kilogram, it was so heavy that it broke the winch on the
fishing boat of two fishermen. The male lobster was caught while the men fished
between Bigbury Bay and Hope Cove in Devon. The huge creature is the largest of its
kind to be caught in British waters in nearly 80 years.

Barton doesn’t like Hollywood lifestyle:

Actress Mischa Barton, who owes her fame to Hollywood, does not want to live the
showbiz lifestyle. The actress has said she makes a deliberate effort to escape
Tinseltown circles and does not want to be called a party girl. “I try to avoid getting
too embedded in the Hollywood lifestyle and I have my family and my life outside of
work,” said Barton to a China daily.

Mischa Barton
JOINED AT THE HIP: Shakira (right) and Carlos Vives perform at a concert for peace in
Colombia on Sunday