Amid clouds of uncertainty, UPA partners keep options open

April 23rd, 2009 - 6:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan New Delhi, April 23 (IANS) As voters queued up to vote in the second phase of the general elections, it was another day of mixed signals from political leaders Thursday with allies of the Congress-led UPA making concerted overtures to the Left.
Confusion also clouded the issue of the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) prime ministerial candidate with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar saying the prime minister would be decided only after the elections, but Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) Ram Vilas Paswan asserting they would consider nobody else but Manmohan Singh for the post.

However, in a clear attempt to keep all options open, the key UPA partners — Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), NCP and LJP — spoke in one voice on wooing the Left.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad said in Patna: “Secular forces should be united to form the government.” He was confident that if the UPA fell short of a majority in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, “we have kept open a window for the Left”.

Paswan said in his constituency Hajipur, also in Bihar: “We want the Left to come with the secular parties.”

In Baramati in Maharashtra, where he cast his vote Thursday, Pawar said he was open to doing business with the Left again.

Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Prakash Karat, which leads the Left parties that backed the UPA government until July last year, however, reiterated his Wednesday’s stance that there was no question of backing a government led by the Congress.

“No government is possible with the Congress. They should realise that,” the CPI-M leader told Times Now TV.

While the Congress had also spoken of the communists not being untouchables, it took a tough position on the leadership issue. Senior leader Kapil Sibal said: “On 16th of May, when (the) results will come, we will form the government and Manmohan Singh will head the government.”

“And when we form the government, those who partner with us will have to be led by us,” Sibal said when asked about Pawar’s statement that “election and selection of the leader will be done collectively by the UPA” after the elections.

According to analysts, Pawar’s statement about the prime ministerial candidate was a message to the Congress that its man for the top job, Manmohan Singh, might have to make room for another aspirant. They also say this is also the message to the Left front that these parties were open to a UPA government minus Manmohan Singh at the helm.

In political observer G.V.L. Narasimha Rao’s view: “It is clear that the allies don’t wish to lend a helping hand to the Congress and are keeping all options open.”

Rao said they might all gang up together against the Congress to form some nondescript grouping. “From the statements by the UPA partners for the past about a month, it looks clear that nobody wants the Congress to head the government,” Rao told IANS.

According to Kanpur-based analyst A.K. Verma: “In this time of great political uncertainty, all of them are keeping one another in good humour but signals are also being given to Manmohan Singh that he may have to make way for a new leader if needed.”

He argued that by saying that it would not do business with the Congress, the Left parties essentially meant Manmohan Singh since they see him as the chief mover of the India-US nuclear deal, over which the Communists withdrew support to the UPA in July 2008.

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