Left refuses to budge on opposition to n-deal (Night Lead)

June 21st, 2008 - 12:09 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) The UPA government late Friday evening made another bid to save the India-US civil nuclear deal as well as the ruling coalition and to avoid elections, but its efforts to win over the Left did not yield results. The communists reiterated their opposition to the deal. Senior Congress ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony met Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Prakash Karat late in the evening to iron out differences. Karat, who earlier in the day categorically stated that the government’s survival would be decided June 25 when the UPA-Left nuclear committee meets, stuck to his opposition to the deal and asked the government to clarify its position on the India-specific safeguards pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

During the meeting, Karat is believed to have told the government that it had promised the Left that the text of the safeguards agreement would be made available to the allies at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left nuclear committee meeting. “We stand by the agreement, and the government has so far not shared the text with us,” Karat reportedly told the ministers.

The CPI-M general secretary also sought the government’s “current position” over the IAEA safeguards pact. Although the Left parties, which oppose the 123 agreement with Washington, allowed the government to go ahead with discussions with the UN nuclear watchdog, they insisted that their consent should be taken before finalising the agreement.

When the government sought the Left’s nod last week to finalise the IAEA safeguards agreement, the communists insisted they would not give the go-ahead as a final pact would put the nuclear deal on auto pilot.

Mukherjee and Antony later met Communist Party of India leader D. Raja, who is also believed to have reiterated the Left’s opposition.

The inflation hitting a 13-year high at 11.05 percent has also given the Left an added tool to attack the government with. The CPI-M polituburo issued a scathing statement, accusing the Congress-led government of failing to curb rising prices.

Sources in the CPI-M, which along with three other Left parties extends crucial parliamentary support to the government, made it clear that the party will spare no quarter to stall the deal. “We will do everything necessary to stop the government from signing the 123 agreement,” said a party politburo member.

According to Left sources, UPA allies like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and DMK were wary of facing early polls even though they had backed the government publicly on the deal. “Inside closed-door meetings, they have asked the government to keep the Left on board.”

The Congress dug in its heels and reiterated its resolve to stand by the prime minister.

“We are not letting down our prime minister in any manner whatsoever,” senior Congress leader and Information and Broadcasting Minister P.R Dasmunsi told a television channel.

In its statement, the CPI-M politburo said double-digit inflation would have a “disastrous effect” on the living standards of the people.

“The Manmohan Singh government is squarely responsible for this dismal situation. It cannot escape by blaming global inflation.”

Congress’ ally Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar Friday met Karat to discuss the nuclear deal impasse. Although there were reports that the prime minister had asked Pawar to convince the Left about the deal, the agriculture minister denied it.

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