Left gives ultimatum, SP meets PM to prop up government (Second Lead)

July 4th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 4 (IANS) Overcoming years of bitter rivalry, Samajwadi Party leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh Friday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in a major step towards shoring up the ruling coalition as the about-to-divorce Left gave a Monday deadline asking the government to explain its next step over the India-US nuclear deal. As the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and three other Left parties discussed the modalities of taking back their legislative support to the Congress-led government, Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh held talks with the prime minister at his official residence for 30 minutes and then gave clear indications that they were dead set on saving the government — and the controversial nuclear deal.

“All new facts were presented to us by the PM. The country’s interest is more important to us … than politics,” Mulayam Singh told an army of reporters outside 7 Race Course Road.

A former defence minister, Mulayam Singh said he would now brief his allies in the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), an alliance of regional parties in which his party is a key partner.

“We will brief them about our talks with the prime minister and with (former president A.P.J.) Abdul Kalam. For us politics is not a priority. Our priority is country,” he went on.

“Apart from this, one of our top priorities is to keep communal forces out of power,” he added, in an obvious reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh, who Thursday evening met Abdul Kalam to know his views on the nuclear deal, then drove to Sonia Gandhi’s 10 Janpath residence, behind the Congress headquarters, for talks apparently aimed at cementing the ties between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

But as the Congress firmed up its ties with the Samajwadi Party, the Left issued a virtual ultimatum to the government over the nuclear deal.

Leaders of the four Left parties whose support is vital for the government shot off a letter to External Affairs Minister and Congress interlocutor Pranab Mukherjee asking the government to explain its stand by Monday on approaching the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to finalise the agreement on India-specific safeguards.

“Please let us know the position by July 7,” CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat told a crowded press conference at the party headquarters, reading out the letter. He declined to take any question.

Karat then read out another statement, signed by leaders of the CPI-M, Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the Forward Bloc, unveiling plans for a national campaign against “runaway inflation, backbreaking price rise and against all anti-people policies”.

He said during this campaign, to start July 14, the Left will also explain the rationale behind its opposition to the nuclear deal.

At the Left meeting, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan told the others that it would not be proper to withdraw support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government when Manmohan Singh is away from India, CPI sources said.

The prime minister leaves for Japan Monday to attend the G8 summit, where he is expected to discuss the nuclear deal with US President George Bush.

Earlier, the Congress held a 50-minute meeting of its core group, chaired by Sonia Gandhi.

The meeting was attended by Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.

A withdrawal of support by the Left will cost the government 61 MPs. The UPA is trying to woo the Samajwadi Party, which has 39 MPs, and other smaller parties so as to retain majority support in the Lok Sabha.

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