NEW DELHI8 (AFP) - India's embattled coalition government stepped up its efforts Thursday to win over MPs ahead of a confidence vote in parliament that commentators say it is far from certain of winning. Congress party leaders said they have the support of 290 lawmakers - more than the 272 required to win next Tuesday's test - but reports and political commentators said the coalition could be just short of the magic number. If the government loses, the world's largest democracy will go into early elections, and Opposition parties - especially the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party - are assured of big political boost. The confidence vote is taking place in the wake of a decision by left-wing and communist parties, who are opposed to a nuclear deal with the United States, to withdraw their backing for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "We are sure of winning, our prime minister has said so, so has the Congress President (Sonia Gandhi)," a senior Congress party official told AFP. But syndicated columnist and political commentator Neerja Choudhury was not so sure. "It's a very close call and nervousness all the way" for Congress, the dominant party in the ruling alliance, she said. The government says the nuclear deal would help meet India's surging energy demands, but the Communists argue the pact will align New Delhi too closely with Washington, and compromise the country's military programme. According to Choudhury, Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and cabinet minister Subodh Kant Sahai have hinted at possible adverse results for the government. She was referring to reports quoting Rahul Wednesday that "sometimes in life, risk has to be taken... If the government falls in the process so be it." This was a sign Congress is "hoping for the best but prepared for the worst," Choudhury said. Choudhary's views were echoed by several newspapers. "Trust vote race gets tight," read a headline in the Times of India. The Indian Express reported that the Congress was offering all kinds of enticements to smaller, fence-sitting parties to win them over. "Congress managers have been kept on edge by would-be allies and independent MPs playing hard ball," the Times of India reported. Congress have also "conceded that getting home and dry remained critically dependent" on talks with small parties, and that "in a fast moving scenario there could be surprises for the government and the opposition," the Paper said. Adding to the uncertainty are certain MPs showing the inclination to defy party lines, said political analyst B G Verghese. "With general elections scheduled anyway in May 2009, most MPs do not seem deterred by threats of expulsion from their parties. They seem willing to choose sides that benefit them the most politically," he said. Analyst and author Rasheed Kidwai agreed "the situation is fluid." "But in cases like this, the advantage usually is with the ruling party, with fence-sitting MPs very likely to side with the governing coalition," he added.