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UPA leaders meet to fine-tune strategy

July 11, 2008

Top leaders of UPA allies met on Friday to fine-tune their political strategy as the ruling coalition braced towards a trust vote in the Parliament in the wake of withdrawal of support by Left parties, plunging the government into a minority.

A date for convening a special session of the Parliament to seek trust vote is also understood to have been discussed.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi indicated that a session of Parliament may be convened after July 22.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images], Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images], RJD chief Lalu Prasad, Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, Shivraj Patil, T R Baalu (DMK), Praful Patel (NCP) and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti among others. JMM leader Hemlal Mummu also attended the meeting, capping speculation that it may keep out of the parley with the party being peeved at the "attitude" of coalition leaders towards its chief Shibu Soren.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of Indian Union Muslim League, whose MP E Ahamed is the Minister of State for External Affairs, voicing concern over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

The Muslim League is also considering various options, including withdrawing Ahamed from the ministry. The party has decided at a meeting of its top leadership in Palakkad in Kerala [Images] on Thursday to vote in favour of the government when it seeks the trust vote.

The UPA leaders are understood to have reviewed the current situation and the stand to be adopted as the government moved ahead with the deal circulating the draft safeguards agreement among members of the IAEA Board of Governors.

The Congress managers are burning the midnight oil to ensure that the combine sail through the trust vote and are in constant touch with small groups like Deve Gowda's JD(S) and Ajit Singh's RLD.

The party is hopeful that the government could bank on the support of 273 members in the Lok Sabha which currently has 543 members due to two vacancies. Singh said yesterday that he will seek a vote of confidence "as early as possible" and the cabinet would meet to decide the date for convening the Lok Sabha.

Image: External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee discusses a point with Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence on Friday morning, during a meeting of the United Progressive Alliance's allies. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks on.

Photo: Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

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