Two persons who have emerged taller from the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha are Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. Both conducted themselves during the nearly two weeks preceding the debate with dignity and decorum. They were not keen to win a point, but to focus the nation's attention on the issue: Is the government led by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in a minority in the 543-member house? The UPA won handsomely by a margin of 19 votes, 275 against 256. Ten members abstained and two stayed away. As many as 28 MPs switched their loyalty on the last day. The maximum number was from the BJP, as many as 8, the party which is honking principles and values all the time, knowing well that all are naked in the bath. Pappu Yadav, a criminal, brought from jail to vote unhinged the party when he went up to the BJP leader, V K Malhotra, in the house to say that he had come to him (Pappu) to offer him money for voting with the BJP. Manmohan Singh's attack on BJP leader L K Advani was severe, but understandable. Advani had called him a nikhama prime minister and the weakest prime minister since independence again and again. Manmohan Singh has given him a blow which will make Advani reeling for the rest of his life. Manmohan Singh said, "Shri Advani should do some introspection. Can our nation forgive a home minister who slept when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of our parliament? Can our nation forgive a person who single-handedly provided the inspiration for the destruction of the Babri Masjid with all the terrible consequences that followed? To atone for his sins, he suddenly decided to visit Pakistan and there he discovered new virtues in Mr Jinnah. Alas, his own party and his mentors in the RSS disowned him on this issue. Can our nation approve the conduct of a home minister who was sleeping while Gujarat was burning leading to the loss of thousands of innocent lives?" To the Left, Manmohan Singh said that they should "ponder over the company they are forced to keep because of miscalculation by their general secretary...Our Left colleagues should tell us whether Shri L K Advani is acceptable to them as a prime ministerial candidate." We lost this Manmohan Singh at the very beginning of his tenure. Indebted to Congress President Sonia Gandhi as he was, he would even accept instructions from 10, Janpath, on the telephone. It is an open secret that he wanted former Foreign Secretary Shyam Sharan to be the Commonwealth secretary-general and even mentioned his name to the ministry of external affairs. But Sonia Gandhi had Kamlesh Sharma, brother-in-law of her family friend, in mind. Sharma got the post to the embarrassment of the prime minister. Now that Manmohan Singh has asserted himself. Let the word go around that 10, Janpath is not running the government from the back seat and that he is at the wheel. The victory, no doubt, is attributed to the UPA. But this is his victory. He took up the gauntlet thrown at him by the Left when it withdrew the support from his government. He has delivered the majority, although the number on the day of voting on the confidence motion got reduced. Still the margin was good enough. His personal integrity has never been doubted and I do not believe that he was a party to the horse-trading which the Congress or the Samajwadi Party is alleged to have done. In the days to come, it would be known if the party or its allies had promised a quid-pro-qua arrangement. Still, a lot of blame will come to the Congress. Unfortunately, the change on the Sethu Bridge stand at the DMK's asking is clearly a concession. If means are vitiated, the ends are bound to be vitiated. These are the words of Mahatma Gandhi who led the party from subjugation to freedom. He must be turning in his samadhi because he found the Congress using every trick, throwing principles to the wind and executing different manoeuvres to stay in power. After all, the government has won with the support of defectors. Speaker Chatterjee witnessed this entire scene but stayed patient. He never raised his voice, nor did he turn away any member from the house. His tact and sense of humour stood him in good stead to conduct business in the worst kind of Lok Sabha since independence. The CPI-M wanted him to resign. But I shudder to imagine what would have happened if he had done so. He has served the nation in a tense situation in an exemplary manner. The CPI-M's decision to throw him out of the party does not make sense. He was not a member of the party in the first instance. As the speaker, he resigned from CPI-M more than four years ago. Imagine the politburau with members who have never fought an election turning out Chatterjee, a person who has been returned to the Lok Sabha for the last four decades. The Lok Sabha verdict will have an impact on the political scene. The Left is determined to create the Third Front with the motley crowd it gathered under the leadership of Mayawati during the Lok Sabha debate. With her reputation of making money even by creating a corridor to the Taj, India's prestigious monument, she will lack credibility. True, she can attract the dalit but the Marxist philosophy envisages a casteless society. Isn't the Left making the same kind of mistake which it has been committing since independence and not having influence beyond Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura and a few pockets? No ideology will string the parties of Mayawati, N Chandrababu Naidu, Om Prakash Chautala, Prakash Singh Badal, Ajit Singh and such other leaders together. It will be seen as an opportunistic alliance to seize power in the next election. The voters in India are not nave today. They can see through the parties and their leaders, however, highfalutin are their programmes. The Congress may realign itself with new regional forces. It appears as if Nitish Kumar, the Bihar chief minister, has caught the fancy of the party, despite Lalu Prasad Yadav's opposition. Nitish Kumar, with limitations of ties with the BJP, has improved the state's law and order situation. His assistance to the common man during the recent floods will go down in history because without getting financial assurance from the centre he staked the state assets to help the flood victims running into lakhs. The Congress may also try to retrieve Biju Patnaik's Janata Dal because its relations with the BJP are indifferent. But the problem in Orissa is that JB Patnaik, an old Congress hand, does not want to step down and his reputation continues to keep the party members and people at distance from him. Much will depend on Manmohan Singh. If he is his own master, he may bring honest and dedicated workers on the same platform. But his political advice is seldom heeded. Will this change after the Lok Sabha verdict? The writer is a former member Indian parliament and senior political analyst