The much-hyped trial of strength for the government in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday proved to be a dampener with the House defeating the cut motion on petroleum prices by a big margin exposing huge divisions in the Opposition.
The cut motion moved by Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta on failure to formulate proper policies on petroleum products was defeated by a margin of 88 votes when it received the support of 201 votes with 289 voting against it in a House of 543.
The government breezed through the Opposition challenge helped by a walk out by the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal together accounting for 25, and 21 Bahujan Samaj Party members voting with treasury benches in what was initially seen as a possible close trial of strength for the United Progressive Alliance-II coalition.
Another surprise voter for the government was Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren, who runs the state government on Bharatiya Janata Party's support.
The cut motion received the support of mainly BJP and its allies and Left Parties, while SP and RJD MPs walked out of the House before the vote, notwithstanding their attack on the government on the issue of price rise.
Another cut motion of Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was defeated 162-246 in a division.
Earlier in the day, the way for smooth passage of the demands was paved by BSP supremo and UP Chief Minister Mayawati who announced the party's support for the government to keep 'communal forces' at bay from power in the centre.
A similar reason was advanced by RJD and SP before walking out of the House, minutes ahead of the voting.
The BJP saw in it a government strategy of 'misusing' CBI as a political instrument keeping the Damocle's sword on 'vulnerable' opposition leaders.
A senior BJP leader said the party has taken note of Soren supporting the government on the cut motion.
Leader of the House and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee later said the demands for grants were passed as expected.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal wondered what the National Democratic Alliance and the Left Parties have achieved when against their total strength of 222, they got the support of only 201.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was present during the 90-minute drama when almost the entire UPA was in full strength in the House.
The demands for grants were taken up for voting after Speaker Meira Kumar applied guillotine on the discussion on demands for grants for over 60 ministries.
After rejecting the Opposition cut motions, the Lok Sabha passed the demands for grants and the Appropriation Bill authorising payment of Rs 46,61,038 crore from the Consolidated Fund of India for 2010-11 without any discussion.
Only the demands for grants of three ministries were discussed by the Lok Sabha in the last few days.
The voting on demands for grants today marks completion of the second stage of the budgetary process. The debate on Finance Bill will be taken up on Wednesday and may be put to vote on Thursday.
While the House was adjourned till 6 pm without transacting any business with the non-NDA opposition disrupting proceedings on the issue of price rise, significantly SP and RJD walked out of the House despite attacking the government on the it.
The Speaker broke new grounds when she allowed voting on cut motions relating to ministries whose demands were not taken up for discussion saying members' constitutional right is superior to any rules and practices.
In the past Speakers had disallowed voting on cut motions on demands for grants of ministries which were not taken up for discussion.