Saturday, July 18 was a day of heavy politicking and Sunday, also promises to be the same. UNPA leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu and leaders of the four Left parties are meeting during the day and again for dinner.
Mayawati is emerging as a credible prime ministerial option, having successfully weaned away at least five Samajwadi parliamentarians to her camp. Her signature achievement on Saturday was to secure the support of Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha MP Shahid Siddique, hours after he had breakfast with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Over the last couple of days, she has been calling the shots, interacting with UNPA heavyweights at her New Delhi residence.
The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is meeting its MPs at a Sunday dinner aimed at keeping the flock together ahead of the July 22 crucial trust vote.
NDA MPs will attend a gala dinner at the residence of BJP prime ministerial candidate L K Advani after a meeting to ensure their support.
The alliance is claiming to have the support of 140 MPs, but the UPA camp believes that some NDA parliamentarians may just opt to abstain from the trust vote, and this is causing concern in the opposition camp.
Media reports suggest that eight Lok Sabha members of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and 12 MPS of the Shiv Sena might support the UPA Government during Tuesday July 22 trust vote.
Not to be left behind in the art of dinner diplomacy, the ruling UPA too has organized a dinner for its leaders and supporters at the Ashok Hotel this evening.
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, will host the dinner for Members of Parliament with the aim of projecting the confidence his government has about winning the trust vote.
Dr. Singh has invited Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief Shibu Soren to the dinner, an indication that the ruling combine has been successful in sealing a" government-saving" pact with the latter.
Soren, according to informed sources, has reportedly been offered a Cabinet berth and a Minister of State slot at the Centre, besides the post of Deputy Chief Minister for his son in the Jharkhand Ministry in return for five JMM Lok Sabha votes. Sources said that a Cabinet reshuffle at the Centre is on the cards around the middle or end of August.
With Congress president meeting party MPs at her 10, Janpath residence and telling them to project a united front to ensure the UPA Government's victory on Tuesday, there is a view in the ruling camp that they will triumph.
Congress managers are expecting "surprise votes" to come their way, but caution still seems to be projected mantra, as they are reportedly unsure of the support they will get from within the party. They expect dissident elements from Haryana, Assam and some other states where they don't have a strong presence to vote against the government.
The Left appears to be getting increasingly marginalized, and seems to have conceded that the ruling coalition might just manage to scrape through, though by a slender margin.
They, however, have said that they are not giving up the fight and will continue with their joint strategy talks with like-minded political outfits. As far as the issue of Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee refusing to demit office and refusing to toe the (CPM) party line, the Marxists said they will deal with the matter after the trust vote. Chatterjee has apparently thrown the rule book at his party, saying that the Speaker is above partisan politics, and therefore, he must not be included in the crucial vote count.
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda is expected to reveal his cards only after a meeting of the political affairs committee of his Janata Dal (Secular). That his party's three votes are crucial to Tuesday's numbers game can be gleaned from the fact that Mayawati has approached him through her key aide Satish Chandra Misra to persuade him to vote against the government.