Indian government seeks trust vote as communists quit

India's ruling United Progressive Alliance on Tuesday said it was ready to prove its majority in the Indian parliament after its communist partners announced their withdrawal from the coalition, failing to resolve differences over an India-US nuclear deal, reported dpa.

The left-wing parties which have provided the Congress party-led UPA with a parliamentary majority for over four years said they took the step as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that his government would approach the International Atomic Energy Agency for India- specific safeguards to implement the deal.

"As you are aware, the left parties had decided that if the government goes to the IAEA Board of Governors, they will withdraw support," said Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

"In view of the prime minister's announcement, that time has come (to withdraw our support)," Karat said reading from a letter sent to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The communist leaders said they had asked President Pratibha Patil for an appointment on Wednesday to formally withdraw support and urge her to ask the government to prove its majority on the floor of the parliament.

En route to Japan to attend the G-8 summit, Singh Monday told reporters on his plane that New Delhi would approach the IAEA to submit the safeguards text for board approval "very soon."

The communists oppose the nuclear deal, saying it would compromise on India's strategic sovereignty and make the country a stooge of "US imperialism."

Meanwhile Singh, speaking to reporters in Japan, said the withdrawal of support by leftist allies did not threaten his government's stability, the PTI news agency reported.

"I do not think it will affect the stability of our government," Singh was quoted as saying.

The leftist bloc includes the Communist Party of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the Forward Bloc, with a combined total of 59 members in the 543-member Indian parliament.

The leading Congress party claimed it has the numbers to sustain a parliamentary majority and said it could convene an emergency parliament session for the trust vote.

Briefing reporters in Delhi, Mukherjee said the government wanted to prove majority in Parliament before approaching the IAEA.

"I talked with Prime Minister Singh...the government will seek a vote of confidence as soon as we receive the formal communication from the Rashtrapati Bhawan (Presidential Palace)," he said.

The Samajwadi Party (SP), once Congress's arch-foe, has already pledged its support to the embattled UPA coalition.

"We welcome the nuclear deal and support Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's decision to go ahead to the IAEA for the next step in the deal," SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav said.

With the withdrawal of leftist support, the ruling coalition will be reduced to 226 members in the parliament, 46 seats short of the majority figure of 272.

But with backing from SP, the UPA could gain the support of 265 members and securing seven votes for the floor test would not be problematic as there were enough independents to convince, political analysts said.

Under the civilian nuclear agreement, the US has promised to provide India with access to civilian nuclear technology and nuclear fuel in exchange for international safeguards on India's civilian nuclear reactors.

After reaching a safeguards agreement with the UN, New Delhi has to lobby for an India-specific waiver with the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group and later send the agreement for final ratification by the US Congress.

India's political crisis comes as Delhi is under pressure from Washington to finalize the deal. Analysts say time is running out for the deal, with new US elections slated for November.

The government says the accord is historic and would end the country's three-decades of nuclear isolation. It asserts that the deal is vital towards meeting India's soaring energy needs for maintaining its high economic growth.

According to Indian officials, Singh is due to meet US President George W Bush in Japan on Wednesday. They are scheduled to hold discussions on the next steps in the nuclear deal which both leaders had announced in 2005. dpa sk jh sc

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