After the Dravida Munetra Kazhagam pull out, the Samajwadi Party, a key outside supporter, on Wednesday kept the government on tenterhooks demanding resignation of Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma for his controversial remarks against party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Not happy with Verma just expressing regret for his remarks, Yadav met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and later had an interaction with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, who was seen talking to him with folded hands in the Lok Sabha after the house had adjourned.
A grim-looking Yadav said he has convened a meeting of SP members of Parliament on Thursday at 9 am. "We will hear their views and then decide," he told mediapersons while leaving Parliament on being asked his party's stand after Verma's regret.
The SP has 22 MPs in the Lok Sabha. As Congress leaders made desperate attempts to placate Yadav, the SP chief met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, fuelling speculation of political realignment at a time when the buzz of mid-term poll gains ground.
Both the leaders, however, played down the meeting, saying they had met to discuss modalities of a programme they have to attend together on March 24.
The meeting of the two leaders comes in the backdrop SP demanding the resignation of Verma and the DMK ruling out a reconsideration of its stand on withdrawing support from the government. A day after withdrawing support to the government, five DMK ministers on Wednesday tendered their resignations to the prime minister from the Union Council of Ministers.
The DMK is second party to leave the UPA. Earlier Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress had quit the UPA last year on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail. The SP has said it is not satisfied with Verma's ‘regret’ and wants an unconditional apology from the minister, who was once close to Yadav.
"There is a difference between regret and apology," SP leader Shailendra Kumar said after Yadav met the prime minister. While NCP is a key constituent of the UPA, SP extends outside support to the government. These developments have come at a time when government said the crisis has blown over and ‘the matter is closed’.
Between adjournments in the Lok Sabha, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde met Yadav separately and are understood to have conveyed to him that the Congress strongly disapproved of Verma's remarks.
With the DMK pullout, the strength of the UPA in the Lok Sabha has been reduced to 224 but it enjoyed the support of 281 MPs that included those of outside supporting parties.
The Lok Sabha has 539 MPs at present as four seats are vacant. The half-way mark is 270. Besides SP, BSP with 21 Lok Sabha MPs is among the crucial outside supporters totalling 57.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj said Verma had tarnished the image of the SP chief who was ‘a respected leader of the House. He should either prove his charges or apologise’.
Verma had alleged that Yadav had links with terrorists, triggering vehement protests from the SP. Swaraj said after making such ‘disparaging remarks’, Verma had ‘no right to continue in office. She said the BJP and SP may have political differences, but "this is a matter of privilege of the House’.
Gandhi, who was present in the House and was watching the new bonhomie between the SP, an outside supporter of the UPA, and the BJP, walked up to Yadav's seat soon after Lok Sabha was adjourned around noon.
Though she was not audible to reporters in the press gallery, Gandhi was seen talking to Yadav with folded hands. Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath had said that the ‘matter is closed’ for the government after he had expressed regret in the Lok Sabha over Verma's remarks.
The Congress had expressed displeasure over Verma's remarks by saying it had ‘taken this issue very seriously’.
The SP chief's son and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said, "It is true that there is upheaval at the Centre and counting of numbers has started to know whether the government would survive or not".
"As far as support to the UPA is concerned, Netaji (Mulayam) will take the decision. Our entire central leadership is in Delhi and Lok Sabha is underway. Any decision would be taken in Lok Sabha and Netaji will finally decide," he said.
The chief minister at the same time significantly added, “We have extended support so that communal forces do not become dominant in the country. To weaken communal forces is our priority".