Political uncertainty ahead of a crucial vote of confidence to be taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government next week has led to frenzied lobbying by the Congress-led coalition to increase their numbers. Irrespective of whether Singh wins the floor test in parliament, the nature of Indian politics is bound to change in the next general elections.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is sure to win the vote of confidence next week in parliament
Long-time friends are becoming foes whilst once bitter enemies are finding themselves on the same side as the Congress-led government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh braces itself for a determined opposition bid to dislodge it over the India-US nuclear deal.
With barely a week left before the July 22 trust vote in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, or lower house of parliament, both the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the disparate opposition are locked in a numbers game that will determine whether or not Manmohan Singh remains the prime minister.
Party managers armed with calculators and the names of MPs are busy working out whether they can reach 272 -- the magic number of seats needed in the Lok Sabha to govern the world's largest democracy.
Confidence on all sides
Congress, which heads the multi-party UPA, says it is confident of retaining power despite losing the support last week of 59 MPs from four Left parties that had sustained the government for over four years.
The void left behind by the Left has been filled by the regional Samajwadi Party, which has 39 MPs. The Congress Party knows it still has to woo the smaller political parties and independent candidates but thinks it will do this without difficulty.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for its part, says it is equally confident that the Congress-led government will fall on July 22nd. It has also decided to vote against the nuclear deal, a decision that put it on the side of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) a party it had always loved to hate.
The Congress is using this common agenda to run both parties down.
Turmoil in political landscape
The rapid developments over the past week have left seasoned politicians and analysts confused as to how events will shape the future of Indian politics. India’s foremost political analyst, G V L Narasimha Rao who heads Development and Research Services, a polling agency, says there is turmoil in India’s political landscape.
“There is a lot of political churning happening in India today. A number of parties, which were in the space of the third front, have gravitated towards Congress and some of those parties are also moving towards other alliances like the NDA [National Democratic Alliance]. This could have major implications. But the recent developments where the Left parties have left the Congress have really created a rift in the so-called secular space.”
Even the Samajwadi Party, which for years counted the Left as an ideological ally, has suddenly started seeing virtues in the Congress reportedly. Yet only in 1999, it single-handedly prevented Congress president Sonia Gandhi from becoming prime minister after a similar parliament trust vote.
Clear lasting impact
Rao says the events leading to the trust vote will clearly have an impact on the next general election: “Now we are looking at the three major formations which will be jockeying for power next time. For any two of them to come together will be a very, very difficult task.”
“Unlike in 2004, where it was the BJP-led NDA versus the rest, today you have the Left parties leading the third coalition. So this could really create problems for the formations of the government. And a fractured mandate could create a lot of uncertainty in the next general elections.”
Interestingly, many MPs have privately admitted they have no idea what the India-US nuclear deal is all about. Yet, this vote of confidence will be a crucial test in parliament that could change the face of Indian politics.