An insightful article by senior journalist Sam Rajappa in a national newspaper yesterday pointed out that no prime minister in India allowed himself to be defeated in a confidence vote in parliament. Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, VP Singh, Vajpayee and Inder Gujaral -- each one of them pre-empted defeat in parliament by resigning from the post. This adds weight to current speculation in the political grapevine that if a final UPA high command meeting during the weekend calculates that the government cannot cobble a majority, the PM will quit on the 20th.
In the event, what could happen? The PM would be a caretaker till a new incumbent is sworn in. But can a new incumbent be elected in the present parliament? If the Congress refuses to cooperate with any alliance to elect one the chances remain slim. A new incumbent could only be elected if the BJP and the Left back the same candidate. Is that likely a few months before both parties face voter4s in a general election?
If an alternate PM cannot be elected Dr Manmohan Singh will continue as caretaker until the mid-term poll. There is of course no such thing as a caretaker prime minister in the constitution. The PM continues to exercise full powers. The IAEA or the NSG cannot raise any technical objection to impede their deliberations. It would be considered immoral for a PM devoid of parliamentary majority to finalize the nuclear deal. But the deal can become operational only after the US Congress Okays it by November.
Political insiders are already setting a September date when the notification for a November general election could be issued. If events occur according to this scenario the Indo-US nuclear deal would be the almost single issue on which the election would be fought. Winning or losing the election would determine the fate of the nuclear deal. Even the strictest stickler for democratic norms could not raise any objection to that.
It is quite likely of course that during the next few days events may follow an entirely different course. But among all the possible scenarios being worked out by political pundits this could be one.