Last minute attempts to resolve UPA-Left deadlock

June 25th, 2008 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) With no sign of a breakthrough, senior Congress ministers met Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat Wednesday in a last-minute attempt to convince the Left leader just hours before the crucial United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left nuclear committee meeting. Karat, who has been maintaining that the Left would not back the government’s move to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over its civilian reactors, a move that would put the India-US civil nuclear deal on course, apparently asserted there could be no change in his stance, informed sources said.

After meeting Karat, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony - who were negotiating with the Left and UPA partners to break the stalemate over the nuclear deal - met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said the sources.

Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel was also present at the meeting held at her official residence at 10 Janpath.

The sources also said Gandhi had discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is insisting that the government should sign the 123 bilateral agreement with the US to resume its nuclear commerce and end its isolation that has been there since New Delhi’s Pokharan nuclear test in 1974.

The Congress-led government is expected to seek more time to take a final decision on the IAEA safeguards agreement, the sources said.

However, many among the Congress allies, even those who support the nuclear agreement, oppose any move that would upset their communist allies who support the government from outside - as none of them are ready to face an early election.

The CPI-M-led Left parties have threatened to review their support if the government went ahead in signing the 123 agreement with Washington.

The sources told IANS that the Wednesday UPA-Left nuclear panel meeting would not be the last one. The committee members are likely to meet again soon.

“The government would rather listen to allies and their views, instead of making a final statement that we are going ahead or not ahead with the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA,” said a source in the government.

The government is believed to have told the Left that they would call an all-party meeting to take a view on the India-US nuclear deal. The Left, however, rejected the proposal.

The communists apparently wanted Manmohan Singh to make a public statement that New Delhi would not go ahead and sign the 123 agreement with Washington, even if it finalised the IAEA pact.

The government, according to sources, is not in a position to make such a statement.

Poll-jittery UPA allies are desperately trying to bridge the widening gap between the Congress and the Left.

Leaders of UPA constituents - Lalu Prasad of Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti Party - have tried to convince the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi that while they favour the deal, this was not the right time for a general election.

The allies fear that elections at this juncture when inflation has touched a 13-year-high at 11.05 percent will hurt them electorally.

DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has told Left leaders that a snap poll will only help the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the UPA’s main political adversary.

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