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No-trust notice insult to Congress injury

Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi

, New Delhi, Dec. 9: Little illustrates the sorry state of the Congress more than one of the three notices given today to the Lok Sabha Speaker for a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government.

The notices, submitted a day after the Congress debacle in the winter Assembly polls, will be taken up tomorrow and will proceed further only if any of them garner the support of at least 50 MPs.

But what embarrassed the government most was that one of the notices was moved by six Congress MPs from Andhra Pradesh who resorted to the extreme measure to prevent bifurcation of the state. The other two notices have been given by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress. They all are animated by the same anti-Telangana sentiment.

These MPs lobbied hard throughout the day today, contacting members from different parties for support. Although it is difficult to bring together so many MPs on an anti-Telangana plank, the no-confidence motion could attract some support as it does not mention any specific cause.

The motion confines itself to saying: “This House expresses its no-confidence in the Union council of ministers.”

There are at least 16 obvious backers of the motion, all from the Andhra region, but the movers tonight claimed support of over 60 MPs. One of the signatories to the motion said: “When the Speaker will ask in the House how many MPs support the motion, at least 60 members from different parties would stand up. If some MPs support this motion because of uncontrollable price rise, others feel this lame-duck government should go now.”

A minister conceded: “We would have managed it in a normal situation. But they have chosen a very delicate time, just a day after the shock results in the elections. They obviously want to blackmail the government and some other vested interests may decide to fish in troubled waters.”

However, a few leaders dismissed the notice as a “diversionary tactic of the Congress” as the party desperately sought to shift the focus from the electoral losses.

The 15th Lok Sabha has not seen any no-confidence motion. A plan by the Trinamul Congress to bring a motion last year to corner the government on the question of FDI in retail failed to muster the requisite support.

Trinamul leader Mamata Banerjee is in Delhi now. Trinamul sources said the party was not willing to get into any controversy at this stage by supporting the no-confidence motion as the motion was likely to be defeated on the floor of the House.

Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien said: “Mamatadi has made it very clear that she and her party are for a united India.”

Another Trinamul leader added: “The motion is a hurried and ill-thought move.”

The Congress MPs who signed the notice included R. Sambasiva Rao, Sabbam Hari, V. Arun Kumar, A. Saiprathap, L. Rajagopal and G.V. Harshakumar.

The Congress MPs’ exceptional step underscored the helplessness of the high command that has remained a mute spectator to the rebellion in its Andhra unit ever since the decision to bifurcate the state was taken. Chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy is leading the rebellion, openly declaring that he would block the Telangana Bill in the Assembly.

In normal circumstances, the high command would have crushed any member who dared to topple the government but in this bizarre case, the party is wondering how to stomach the insult.

Instead of acting against the MPs, the party leadership has issued a whip to its MPs to be present in the House to face any eventuality. The MPs are not scared of any action as they feel they have no future in Andhra in the next election if they stick to the Congress.

The Congress, too, is not acting against the rebels as its government could fall the moment it embarks on a path of confrontation. But the party is hoping that the protests in Andhra, including measures like the notice for a no-confidence motion, will help the party gain some sympathy in Telangana.