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Cong, Samajwadi cry off test of strength

Lucknow, March 3: Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh have decided not to go ahead with their no-confidence motions against the Speaker which were to come up in the Assembly tomorrow.

The rethink came after the parties realised they could not embarrass chief minister Mayavati in a trial of strength as she was ahead in the numbers game.

The leaders of the Samajwadi Party and the Congress today confirmed they would withdraw the notices for lack of confidence in Speaker Kesari Nath Tripathi the first thing tomorrow, following an appeal by former chief minister and Rashtriya Kranti Dal leader Kalyan Singh.

The two parties had given notices for moving the motion against Tripathi last month after levelling serious charges of partisanship against him. They had also demanded the appointment of a pro-tem Speaker in his place.

The somersault follows a successful campaign by Mayavati to make several MLAs desert the Opposition and switch loyalties. Last month, she split the Congress legislature party after managing to “persuade” seven of the eight Congress defectors and an MLA of the Rashtriya Parivartan Dal to join her Bahujan Samaj Party.

This had increased the BSP’s strength in the 401-member House to 108. Seven Independent MLAs, including rebel leader Raja Ram Pandey, have also publicly extended support to her government, while the dissidents in the 87-member BJP legislature party have been tamed.

“The Opposition has virtually conceded defeat and this ensures smooth sailing for the Mayavati government during the budget (session),” admitted a senior Congress legislator. “The session may still be full of sound and fury but will signify nothing.”

Though it would not have automatically led to the fall of the Mayavati government, the no-confidence motion against the Speaker would have been the first test of strength in the Assembly. Supplementary grants and vote of accounts would have provided other opportunities for lobby division.

Sources said the Opposition was looking for a face-saver to avoid a lobby division after it realised that it could not defeat, or even embarrass the government in the House. It surfaced in the shape of a written appeal by the former chief minister, an ally of the Samajwadi.

Singh summoned reporters to his residence this morning and said he had asked the Congress and the Samajwadi not to press for the no-confidence motion. “Keeping in view the dignity of the Speaker’s post, I am formally appealing to the Samajwadi Party and the Congress to withdraw their notice, which is scheduled to come up for debate in the Assembly on Tuesday,” Singh said, adding that Tripathi’s credentials were impeccable.

Before issuing his appeal, the former chief minister had met Tripathi. “I am sure that he has taken note of the fact that some of his decisions have hurt the Opposition parties greatly and am confident that he will keep this in mind in future,” he said.

Singh evaded a direct reply when asked if he had consulted his friend and ally Mulayam Singh Yadav and Congress leaders before issuing his appeal. “I do not wish to comment on this but you can read between the lines,” he said.

As if on cue, leader of the Opposition Mohammed Azam Khan said his party could not ignore advice from a senior leader like Singh. “While moving the motion against the Speaker, we had no personal animus against Tripathi,” the Samajwadi leader claimed.

Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tewari said he would discuss the issue with the party’s central leaders before finalising the response to Singh’s appeal. “We will take the appropriate decision at the appropriate time,” he added.

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