The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong rushes to shed saviour tag with vote call

Lucknow, Nov. 19: Having paved the way for the victory of the BSP-BJP combine’s candidate in the crucial legislative council bypoll by abstaining, the Uttar Pradesh Congress today sought to dispel the impression that the party wanted to bail out the Mayavati government.

Party leaders called on Governor Vishnu Kant Shastri to demand that a special session of the Assembly be convened immediately and Mayavati asked to go for a trial of strength as the elections had proved that her government has lost majority support.

“We had stayed away from the elections since the Congress was not consulted by the Samajwadi Party when it decided to field former minister Yashwant Singh. But we will vote against the Mayavati government during the trial of strength,” Congress legislature party leader Pramod Tewari told reporters after meeting the Governor.

Tewari said the results had proved that the Congress had to be incorporated as a key player in any campaign to oust Mayavati. “It shows that no anti-communal front could work without our support, and it’s time the Samajwadi Party realised this,” he added.

The ruling combine’s Munna Singh Chauhan had polled 194 votes, defeating Opposition nominee Yashwant Singh by 11votes yesterday after the 23 Congress MLAs abstained. If the Congress now votes with the rest of the Opposition on the floor of the 402-member House, the numbers against Mayavati add up to 207 — enough to topple her government. The evidence of largescale cross-voting during yesterday’s polling is a cause for worry for the leaders of the ruling coalition.

“At least 17 BJP MLAs and four RLD (Rashtriya Lok Dal) MLAs voted against the party, and this spells trouble for us during an imminent trial of strength,” a senior BJP leader admitted.

While BJP leaders are busy trying to identify the cross-voting culprits, the fact that at least two MLAs from the Samajwadi Party’s ally, Apna Dal, voted for Chauhan showed that the malaise was not confined to the ruling camp.

“If there is a trial of strength, we can bank on the support of some Samajwadi and Congress MLAs,” claimed a Mayavati aide. The chief minister has already won over expelled Congress legislator Akhilesh Singh and a couple of Independents from the Opposition camp by giving them a reprieve in criminal cases registered against them.

Political observers feel that the Congress step yesterday was prompted by its desire to keep power out of the reach of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. “Mulayam as UP chief minister is bound to hamper the Congress’ plans of a revival in Uttar Pradesh during the next Lok Sabha elections,” they argued.

While keeping Mulayam on leash, the Congress is keen that it should not be seen as Mayavati’s saviour. “It is clear that the Mayavati government no longer enjoys majority in the House and the Governor should convene a special session of the Assembly for the floor test,” state Congress leader Jagdambika Pal said.

The Congress ploy today came under attack from general secretary of the Rashtravadi Congress Party Jagannath Mishra, who regretted that instead of playing a leading role in dislodging the BSP-BJP combine, the Congress had helped its candidate win the election.

The former Bihar chief minister wanted the Congress to join hands with other secular and regional parties to take on communal forces.

“With the failure of the NDA government on all fronts, the chances of the Congress coming to power again at the Centre have brightened. But it will never be able to form a government on its own and will need support from other parties,” he warned.

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