For the first time, the ruling Congress party is having dirty linen washed in public. The differences in the cabinet are not new. They have been smouldering for a long time. But it had never come to a stage where one minister would leak out a note or a memorandum on the internal assessment against the ministry of other. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has known all along who in his cabinet is trying to gun whom down. Yet he has kept quiet because wrangling among ministers has strengthened his position and covered his casual attitude. You cannot be taking things lightly when you are the one who has to take the decision. The result is that people doubt his way of functioning, conceding that he is personally honest. The two senior-most cabinet members, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister P. Chidambaram, whatever their posture of solidarity, are distant from each other. Chidambaram fears Mukherjee's political acumen and Mukherjee sharp intellect of Chidambaram. Congress President Sonia Gandhi has advised both to make peace. But her word may not work because Pranab has damaged Chidambaram's stock. The finance ministry's note or the assessment was prepared after Chidambaram had quit the finance ministry and said that he could have saved the exchequer an estimated loss of Rs10.06 trillion if he had insisted on the auction of the 2G spectrum. Former Telecom minister A. Raja sold them in 2008 at the 2001 price. The note leaves no ambiguity and says that Mukherjee had seen it. IMMENSE HARM In fact, both ministers have been exposed - Mukherjee while trying to entangle Chidambaram and the latter coming to know of the trap that had been laid long after he had quit the finance ministry. Ironically, the note which has caused the furore has been obtained by a BJP activist under the Right to Information Act petition. Interestingly, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave the activist a ream of material that included the note. The government's spokesman says in defence that it was signed by a junior officer. Does it matter whether it has the signature of the finance minister when it is a communication from the finance ministry? The harm that the note has done is immense. So much so that Chidambaram even offered to resign although Mukherjee probably shed crocodile tears saying that Chidambaram was "his valued colleague and a pillar of the government." The rift, however, has given ammunition to the opposition, ranging from the BJP on the right to the communist parties on the left. The media has been equally harsh to pounce upon it. All this does not mean that the government is about to fall as is the rumour spread mostly by the BJP. True, the exterior of the government structure has been chipped but not in any way weakened. Ultimately, it is a question of numbers in the Lok Sabha, India's lower house. The BJP and its allies do not have a total of 273, the magic figure which gives a majority in the Lok Sabha of 545. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that represents the government has remained intact. The UPA's own strength is 263 but has 27 members supporting from outside. Therefore the total comes to 290. The apprehension is that the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) may falter in the south because Kanimozhi, daughter of the party leader, K.Karunanidhi, and his loyal follower A. Raja, are in jail. But the DMK's strength of 18 members is expendable. The loss of 18 does not bring the govt down. Similarly, Mamata Banerjee of Trinamul Congress from West Bengal cannot oust the government by herself. She has 19 members in the Lok Sabha. Still the Manmohan Singh government is very solicitous towards her. Problems of the Singh government may begin when Uttar Pradesh goes to polls early next year. Both Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party are on the side of the Congress, with the strength of 21 and 22, respectively. The two may find it odd when the Congress pitches its own tent against theirs for the assembly election and criticises them to make a dent into their support. In fact, all the three parties have the same electoral base, that of Muslims, who have 15 per cent votes in UP. Again, the BSP and the Samajwadi Party do not by themselves pose a threat. They have to combine with the other Congress allies to oust the government. At present it faces criticism, not any challenge. However, the communists are trying their best to revive the third front. Even if it were to take place, it could be only after the polls in UP, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Goa, and Manipur next year. Rising prices, the tumbling rupee, negligible growth of employment and the falling growth rate have essentially hurt the government. Yet the kicking point against the government has been the 2G spectrum scandal. The cracks in the government, particularly between Mukherjee and Chidambaram, have only become more visible. Gulf News