Left formally divorces UPA, Karat calls PM a Bush lover (Roundup)

July 9th, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS) Indian Communists Wednesday called on President Pratibha Patil to formally end their four years of shaky support to the Congress-led coalition, saying the India-US nuclear deal would never provide energy security but instead harm the country’s independent foreign policy and strategic autonomy. As expected, the Samajwadi Party immediately stepped in, submitting to the president a list of 39 MPs elected on the party ticket in 2004 and claimed an independent MP’s support to make up for the shortfall of 59 MPs of the four Left parties that propped up the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in May 2004.

And as Congress leaders got into the act of shoring up enough support for the UPA in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, a confident Manmohan Singh and US President George W. Bush shook hands on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Japan and voiced their backing of the nuclear deal.

After meeting for about 45 minutes at Hotel Windsor Toya, overlooking the scenic Lake Toya, Bush said: “We talked about the nuclear deal and how important it is for our respective countries.”

The highlight of the day was an unprecedented no-holds-barred attack that Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat launched on the government and the prime minister after he along with leaders of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) met Patil around noon and demanded that the government prove its majority in parliament.

Karat and the other leaders told Patil that minus the Left, “the government has lost its majority and legitimacy. The prime minister must face the Lok Sabha and seek a vote of confidence”.

Accusing Manmohan Singh of giving priority to Bush over the Indian people, a combative Karat told reporters at the CPI-M headquarters that the government was not transparent over the “notorious nuclear deal” and accused it of lying for saying that the India-specific safeguards pact to be signed with IAEA was a classified document.

“We would like to know who has declared this to be a classified document? Is this the UPA government decision or (that of) the secretariat of the IAEA? This is the text (that) is going to bind us in perpetuity; our nuclear reactors will be placed under safeguards in perpetuity. And that text is being hidden from the people of this country.”

He added: “The struggle against the nuclear deal is not over. This struggle will continue. I am confident this deal will not be finalised.”

In a joint statement, the four Left parties said the nuclear deal was against India’s vital interests, it would not provide energy security and it would “hamper an independent foreign policy and restrict our strategic autonomy”.

“The Congress is determined to go ahead with a further rightwing shift in both foreign and domestic policies,” it added.

Karat also hinted that there was no question of the Left and Congress making up after another Lok Sabha election.

Hectic political activity continued throughout the country with various political parties making clear their stance in favour of or in opposition to the nuclear deal - numbers that will ultimately decide the fate of the government.

External Affairs Ministry Pranab Mukhereje had stated Tuesday that the next session of parliament would begin Aug 11 but the Lok Sabha could be convened earlier if and when President Patil asked the UPA coalition to prove its majority.

With all eyes turning to the Rashtrapati Bhavan, eminent constitutional lawyer Fali S. Nariman told reporters that the president may not ask the prime minister to prove his majority and instead the Left could be asked to introduce a motion of no confidence in the Lok Sabha.

MDMK leader Vaiko, who commands four Lok Sabha MPs, announced that his party would vote against the nuclear deal. But at least one of the MPs said his edict was not binding on them. Similarly, two Samajwadi Party MPs made it clear that they would vote against the nuclear deal.

The Congress is banking on the smaller parties, some of which are yet to made up their mind.

Notwithstanding the obstacles, the Congress is confident of winning a floor test.

“We are sure we can prove majority in the Lok Sabha. We are working on it,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi told IANS. A meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s apex body, has been called Friday - by when Manmohan Singh would have returned - to study the political situation.

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