Congress, Left prepare to divorce; envoy says deal is on (Intro Roundup)

July 2nd, 2008 - 12:13 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) A belligerent Left fired fresh salvos Tuesday indicating it was set to ditch the government over the US-India nuclear deal, perhaps as early as over the weekend, forcing the Congress-led ruling coalition to step up its efforts to woo the Samajwadi Party amid hectic political developments. As Samajwadi Party leaders voiced their new found love for the Congress publicly, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat warned that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s trip to Japan for the G8 summit at the end of the week would be tantamount to going ahead with the nuclear deal.

In a virtual ultimatum to the Congress-led government, Karat told Malayalam TV channel Asianet: “We have been told that the prime minister was stubborn that he would not go to G8 summit unless he was allowed to go to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). We will consider the prime minister going to G8 as an indication they have decided to go ahead with the nuclear deal.”

Karat’s statement came as the CPI-M denounced Manmohan Singh’s determination to go ahead with the deal as a sign of his “obsession” with the US and his “disregard” for the Indian parliament.

Manmohan Singh called on President Pratibha Patil at the Rashtrapati Bhavan for a 50-minute meeting during which he discussed the stalled nuclear deal, officials said. And Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh had a telephonic talk with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi after a Monday night meeting with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, who suddenly flew to Iran overnight for a security dialogue, is tipped to give a briefing Wednesday on the nuclear deal to Samajwadi Party leaders including Amar Singh and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

In other indications that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was intent on going ahead with the deal, India’s envoy to the US, Ronen Sen, said the nuclear deal will be consummated while Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said the UPA was confident of winning the Samajwadi Party support and also securing the nuclear deal.

Addressing the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) in Las Vegas, Sen said he was sure the nuclear deal would become a reality soon. “Its advantages are not in terms only of energy security, it’s a vitally critical element of our national security.”

The prime minister is scheduled to leave for Japan July 6 or 7, official sources said. India has been invited as an outreach partner for the summit of the world’s top eight industrial nations along with China, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico.

In Japan, Manmohan Singh has a crucial meeting with US President George Bush where they will discuss a timeframe for the implementation of the nuclear deal that stemmed from their meeting in Washington in 2005.

Providing music to Congress ears were Mulayam Singh Yadav’s comments: “We do not have any enemies… The Congress is not an untouchable.” The Samajwadi’s 39 Lok Sabha MPs would play a crucial role if the Left, with 59 MPs, were to withdraw its support to the government.

Realising that was imminent, Amar Singh told CPI-M leaders Karat and Sitaram Yechury not to do anything that would strengthen “communal forces”.

Manmohan Singh Monday offered to abide by the “sense of the house” if the government was allowed to complete the process of negotiations over the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The Communists have asked the government not to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, a move crucial to carry forward the 123 agreement with the US.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar met Karat Tuesday, apparently to urge him to delay the process of withdrawal of support to the government.

The Samajwadi Party’s go-soft-on-Congress has triggered speculation that Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would get close to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati told a press conference in Lucknow: “The nuclear deal is anti-Muslim and the Samajwadi Party has taken a u-turn on the nuke deal.”

Mayawati’s statement - presumably with an eye on the Muslim support base the Samajwadi Party enjoys - invited the ire of both Amar Singh and the Congress.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “Any political party which is trying to communalise this issue is doing the greatest disservice to this country.”

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