Scramble by rivals to support victorious UPA


New Delhi/Lucknow : Arch rivals Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) as well as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) Tuesday vied with each other to offer support to the victorious Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, which needs just nine more MPs to get the 272 figure needed to form government.

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The Congress has, however, yet to make up its mind on taking support from these parties, which are its rivals in their respective states. The party is meeting its “pre-poll allies” Wednesday at 10, Janpath, the residence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

“We have not made up our mind on the issue. We are meeting our pre-poll allies tomorrow. A decision will be taken only after that,” sources in the Congress party said.

The SP and BSP, which fought elections against the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere, said they have decided to pledge their support to the UPA to “strengthen secular forces” and to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party out.

The RJD, which Monday said it would offer unconditional support to the UPA, is to hand over to President Patil a letter of support Tuesday eveing.

The UPA is short of merely nine MPs to reach the 272 half-way mark in the 543-member House. If SP (23), BSP (20), and JD-S, which has three seats, are added, the UPA will easily cross the 300 mark in the 15th Lok Sabha. The RJD has four seats.

The Samajwadi Party, which contested the elections in alliance with Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, was the first to declare its support for UPA. It has just 23 seats this time, down from 36 last time. The BSP has marginally bettered its tally to 21 from 19 last time, while the RJD’s share plummeted from 24 to just four.

SP general secretary Amar Singh Tuesday morning handed over a letter of support for the formation of a Congress-led UPA government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh to President Pratibha Patil. A statement from the president’s office confirmed that the SP leader met Patil and handed over a letter of support for the UPA.

Amar Singh defended his party’s decision to support the UPA despite fighting elections against Congress and alleged that the BSP, which also declared outside support for the UPA Tuesday, was guilty of practising politics of opportunism.

“Manmohan Singh talked to me for support… I have been authorised and directed by party chief Mulayam Singh to offer our support for the formation of a UPA government under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh,” Amar Singh told reporters outside Rashtrapati Bhawan after handing over the letter of support to Patil.

Amar Singh reminded the Congress that it was his party which saved the India-US nuclear deal and the Manmohan Singh government when it faced the confidence vote in July last year.

The Congress is not keen to take the support of the SP, which is known for dictating a tough price in the form of ministerial berths and other concessions. Moreover, with the Congress winning 21 seats in Uttar Pradesh and the party top brass working on a long-term strategy to revive the Congress in the Hindi heartland, not many are in favour of accommodating the SP, which is seen as an unreliable customer.

But the party is keeping its lines open with SP and others as the UPA lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha which will help it to push through controversial measures.

Mayawati also announced that her party’s 21 MPs will extend unconditional outside support to the new UPA government at the centre “for weakening communal forces in the country” and keeping the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) away from power. She also stressed that her party was supporting the UPA “despite knowing that it will not provide any financial assistance or take significant steps for development of Uttar Pradesh”.

“The party has agreed to provide outside support to the UPA government without any conditions,” Mayawati told reporters before a meeting of the party’s national executive in Lucknow.

Mayawati has authorised senior party leader Satish C. Mishra to meet the president and hand over a letter expressing the BSP’s support to the UPA.

In Banglaore, the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy also announced unconditional support for the UPA. The party has three MPs.

“Ghulam Nabi Azad, in charge of Congress affairs in Karnataka, asked us to extend support to the new government. I have agreed to give a letter of support,” Kumaraswamy, son of JD-S president and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda, told reporters.

RJD leader P.C. Gupta told reporters that the party will hand over a letter of support to the president Tuesday evening. Gupta told reporters: “The RJD was always with the UPA and will always remain with it.”