Get ready for polls, Sonia to party leaders

June 28th, 2008 - 6:39 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, June 28 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday asked party leaders to get ready for general elections by the year end, party sources said, as the Left vowed to take back its support to the government over the India-US nuclear deal. At a meeting of the Congress general secretaries and leaders in charge of the states at her residence here, Gandhi asked them to prepare for elections by November or December.

The meeting was called after the Left parties maintained that they would withdraw their legislative support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government if it went ahead with the India-US nuclear deal.

In what looks like an election call, Gandhi has said in a letter to party members in the latest issue of the Congress magazine Sandesh: “With a record of achievements of the Congress party, the expectations from the Congress are always much more. Only a strong and vibrant organisation at the grassroot is capable of carrying the message of the Congress.

“We have to strengthen the party and our party men and women have to build a living contact with all its members at each level and with the people. This is a task we have to set ourselves to in the coming months.”

A Congress leader said: “The uncertainty over the deal is only due to the inflation and the fear that the price rise would affect the party’s electoral prospects adversely.”

The annual rate of inflation touched 11.42 percent for the week ended June 14, a 13-year high.

Meanwhile, confusion over the fate of the nuclear deal continued among the party leadership.

Although, Gandhi is backing the prime minister, who is believed to be insisting on going ahead with the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the leadership is in a dilemma over taking the support of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi party.

Getting the Samajwadi Party’s support would become a necessity in the event the four Left parties, which together command over 60 MPs, withdraw their support to the government.

“Continuing in power with the Samajwadi Party’s support would be more disastrous (than the collapse of the government). We will have to pay a heavy price for it,” admitted a central minister.

“We cannot forget what Mulayam Singh has done to us in the past. He could ditch us any moment,” added another cabinet minister who did not want to be identified.

However, there is another section that argues that the nuclear deal has to go through and the party could have a “stop-gap” arrangement with the Samajawadi Party.

“We have to think about the national interests,” said a party leader.

Mulayam Singh Yadav said Friday that the Congress had not approached him for support over the nuclear deal.

The ties between the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties have worsened as the latter refused to allow the government to go ahead with the IAEA pact.

The Left say finalizing IAEA agreement would lead to signing of 123 agreement with Washington which the Communists say puts fetters on India’s nuclear programme.

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