The cut motions that cut open the opposition wounds

The cut motions that cut open the opposition wounds

Shibu Soren, who took BJP’s help to become the chief minister of Jharkhand only four months ago, but continues to be an MP, stunned the BJP by voting in favour of the UPA government along with his colleague! An embarrassed Central leadership of the BJP has acted quickly to withdraw its support to Soren government, though Soren’s son claimed that the voting was by mistake.

After becoming the chief minister of Jharkhand at the head of a minority government in December 2009, Soren had not yet resigned his parliament seat. He wasn’t able to get into the Assembly as no one was prepared to vacate a seat for him, including his daughter-in-law! Now his voting with the UPA has set off the possibility for new power equations to emerge in the tribal state.

The canny Soren, who had an alliance with the Congress before the Assembly polls, but ditched the party when the BJP came forward to support his candidature for chief ministership, may well do another somersault and become a minister in the UPA government.

Political grapevine has it that Soren will now tie up with Babulal Marandi of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik). While Marandi may become chief minister, Soren’s ambitious son Hemant Soren may be anointed deputy CM. In the 82-member Jharkhand Assembly, JMM has 18 MLAs as against 14 with the Congress, 18 with BJP and 11 with JVM-(P).
The Soren vote is akin to the then Orissa chief minister Giridhar Gamang’s, who created history of sorts in 1998: Still an MP, he came to Delhi and voted for the no-confidence motion against the Vajpayee government: the NDA coalition lost by one vote and was forced to seek a fresh mandate. The BJP had cried hoarse then.

The latest voting in parliament, through which the ruling Congress-led coalition dealt a telling blow to the opposition unity, may have larger meaning to cow-belt politics. That the Mayawati-led BSP chose to support the government and the SP and the RJD decided to favour it by staging a walkout before voting, could have far-reaching implications in the coming days.

The BSP decision is seen as a ‘thanks-giving’ to the government as only last week, the CBI withdrew a disproportionate assets case against BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati. Analysts believe, the Tuesday development, however, is unlikely to change the equations in UP politics as BSP and Congress have more or less arraigned themselves against each other for the gaddi in 2012.

Enemy’s enemy
Viewed from Mayawati’s stand point, by supporting the UPA, she wants to avoid being seen as part of any plan to destabilise the government when the mood in the country is not for a mid-term poll. Also, she wants to keep the Muslims happy as she claimed after the vote that the support to UPA was to ‘prevent communal forces’ staging a come back.
Perhaps, by bailing out the UPA, she hopes that the Congress’ aggressive dalit wooing campaign in UP may take a break. But says a UP watcher: “Given the political equations and a turf war where both parties have gone too far to look back, there cannot be a longer cooling off period. It is safe to expect the next round of battle to begin very shortly.”

As for RJD, its leader Lalu Prasad’s position is increasingly looking precarious. With Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s popularity on the rise among the masses, Lalu desperately wants an alliance with the Congress — which is not in as good a position in Bihar as in UP. Bihar goes to elections in October-November. Both Lalu and Mulayam have, by helping the government, shown that they want to be on the right side of the government. Not to forget that both of them have CBI cases pending against them.
An indirect consequence of this voting could be on the fate of Women’s Reservation Bill which both Lalu and Mulayam had opposed vehemently. Perhaps, by doing the government a favour, they hope that the controversial bill will not be moved in the Lok Sabha any time soon. It has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha.
By delivering a coup, the UPA floor managers have dealt a double blow to the opposition unity in general and to BJP in particular. The BJP psyche is badly hurt with the Soren episode, as when it moved the cut motions, it did not account for volte-face by a new-found ally nor losing out in Jharkhand so soon.

The wobbly Third Front, a loose alliance of 13 parties, which was making yet another attempt to come closer to oppose the government on many fronts, again looks clueless. This alliance which was cobbled together just a fortnight ago, lay in tatters after the Tuesday voting, as Lalu accused the Left parties of joining hands with the ‘communal forces’ and voting with the BJP.
Nearing its first anniversary, the UPA-II couldn’t have asked for anything better.

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