07/21/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Tomorrow’s confidence vote to determine India’s future

by Nirmala Carvalho
Parliaments begins debate over nuclear deal but focus is on last minute alliances and defections. Each vote will count. If the government loses elections will be called and Hindu nationalists are currently favoured to win, riding high on street protests over price hikes and widespread social injustice.
 

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India's parliament opened a special session this morning to debate a confidence motion on a nuclear deal with the Unites States. The final vote is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

For the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nuclear energy for civilian use is crucial to meet the country’s growing energy needs in the face of skyrocketing prices for oil and gas.

If the deal is ratified Washington would lift the nuclear embargo imposed on New Delhi for not adhering to the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970,  a step that falls to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has however already started talks.

But India’s Communist parties fear that it would make India too dependent on the United States since under the accord, India would gain access to US civilian nuclear technology. For this reason they pulled out of the governing coalition, leaving the latter with only 226 votes, 46 short of a majority in the 543-seat lower house.

Mr Singh has received the support of the regional Samajwadi party and other smaller parties, but at least seven Samajwadi MPs (out of 39) have announced their intention to vote against the government.

In case of a loss elections scheduled for next year would be held this year and the nuclear deal would probably be scrapped.

The last time the rarely used confidence motion was voted on was ten years ago

The final outcome of the vote remains uncertain as horse-trading for support goes on without stop.  For instance, the small Jharkhand Mukti Morch—a party with five MPs—announced on Sunday it would support the coalition after it was promised two cabinet positions as well as a plum post in a state government for the party leader’s son.

With every last vote of crucial importance, several government-affiliated lawmakers imprisoned for serious crimes, including murder, are being temporarily released to support the coalition.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has offered to send air ambulances to fly two ailing BJP MPs from their hospital beds to New Delhi to vote against the government. The BJP has also urged an MP currently convalescing in a Los Angeles hospital to return home.

The vote comes at a time when the government is under increasing criticism for its handling of the economy with inflation running at 12 per cent and food prices and bank interests rising fast. India’s oppositions are thus confident they can win the elections.

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