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    Rabble Rousing Random Ramblings by S Jagadish is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.

    July 16, 2008

    How things could develop on/before July 22

    After the Left withdrew support to the UPA government last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced that his government would seek a vote of confidence from the Lok Sabha on July 22.

    Since the arithmetic still doesn't work out too well for the UPA, jokers like Shibu Soren (JMM) and Chandrasekhar Rao (TRS) are trying to extract whatever they can (minister posts & a Union cabinet decision in favour of a separate Telengana state) from the Congress (I).

    Then there's a huge debate on whether Speaker Somnath Chatterjee should vote with his CPI (M) comrades on July 22 or not. If my understanding of the Constitution is right, the speaker cannot do so ordinarily. The only situation under which the speaker can vote is if his vote is the casting vote (Article 100). So if the scores are tied, Somnath Chatterjee only then has the duty to vote.

    There're a total of 543 members. Remove Somnath Chatterjee and the government needs to get 272 out of the 542 votes in its favour to stay in power. The Left has 59 seats. The Left is majorly pissed off with Manmohan Singh for going ahead with the nuclear agreement despite its protests and despite the UPA-Left committee not having come to a decision.

    At the same time, the Left does not want to be seen as co-operating with the BJP during the vote of confidence. So I think this is what could happen:

    • The Left abstains from the vote. The new total vote count becomes 484 since you now subtract 59 Left votes from 543 seats. So now the UPA only needs to ensure it gets 243 votes in favour of the government. That it already has, with the support of the Samajwadi Party. So the government will survive.
    • The casualty will be Manmohan Singh. He'll resign. Sonia Gandhi will have to find a new Prime Minister. The Left will resume outside 'support' to the government.
    • Preparations for general elections will start. Assuming that the deal does go through the IAEA and the NSG, I'm not sure about the exact next steps if the US Congress okays the agreement. Does it come back to the Indian Parliament? If so, then the Left could block the deal then. If not, in any case, the Indian & US governments will be lame duck administrations. So they'd be wary of closing the deal. The next government can deal with the headache.
    • Contrary to the Left's expectation that their magnanimity in ensuring survival of the government (by abstaining) will be appreciated, the fact remains that they caused havoc in political circles. The price they could pay would be in terms of the number of seats they win in the next general election.
    One aspect of the civilian nuclear energy agreement has been nagging me for a very long time. My understanding is that nuclear power generation stations/reactors need large quantities of water.

    The Australian Parliament commissioned a study on the water requirements of nuclear power stations. The results corroborated an earlier study by the US-based Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) which suggests that nuclear power stations use up more water (Table S-1) and also produce less electricity per pound of circulating steam compared to other energy sources like fossil fuels, biomass or natural gas. The Australian Parliament report's conclusion is:
    Per megawatt existing nuclear power stations use and consume more water than power stations using other fuel sources. Depending on the cooling technology utilised, the water requirements for a nuclear power station can vary
    between 20 to 83 per cent more than for other power stations.
    Keeping in mind that fresh water is preferred for these power plants and the fact that we live in times when water leads to inter-state and inter-country disputes, it seems to me that a nuclear power plant is not a sound option. Of course, if there was a cost-effective way to use desalination plants to convert saline water from the sea and then route it to the power plant, that could be an ideal solution.

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