Prime Minister Manmohan Singh easily won a vote of confidence in the Indian Parliament on Tuesday evening, more than two hours behind schedule but with a comfortable margin of victory, 275 to 256, after a day of bruising attacks that turned the floor of parliament into an arena of hand-to-hand political combat.
Singh put his Congress Party's majority on the line to defend his government's decision to pursue a controversial nuclear deal with the United States. The two main leftist parties pulled out of Singh's coalition government in protest against the deal, which they said would make India beholden to the strategic interests of the U.S. Singh kept his majority by forging a series of alliances, first with the Samajwadi Party, a powerful player in the key northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and then with a series of smaller regional parties. "They ayes have it," said Somnath Chatterjee, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament, as he announced the results at about 8:25 p.m., New Delhi time.
The vote was meant to have been held more than two hours earlier, but it was delayed by an unprecedented display on the floor of Parliament: during the afternoon debate session, a group of opposition MPs from the Bharatiya Janata Party displayed stacks of cash, asserting that one of them had been offered a bribe to abstain from the vote. The commotion disrupted the proceedings as Speaker Chatterjee insisted that the claim be made formally and in writing, rather than on the open floor. That was just the most serious of the allegations thrown against the Congress Party during the two-day debate over the confidence measure. Earlier in the day, an MP from the Bahujan Samaj Party, the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, claimed that members of his party had been harassed by unnamed members of the Congress-led alliance.
So far, no one has offered clear evidence of any illegal political deals, but these charges are unlikely to be the last. With the confidence vote out of the way, both Congress and its adversaries are positioning themselves for next year's elections.