No compromise on Manmohan and nuke deal, says Rahul (Lead)

May 3rd, 2009 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi New Delhi, May 3 (IANS) In a clear signal to allies amid talk of a hung parliament, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi said Sunday that there could be no compromise on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the India-US nuclear deal.
Gandhi, 38, also told CNN-IBN that his party was confident of improving its 2004 tally of 145 Lok Sabha seats and form a new government at the end of staggered general elections this month.

“We will improve our tally. We will win and form the government,” Gandhi said confidently. “The 2004 elections hinged on two or three factors. This election is more complicated. I know where we are gaining: Kerala, Orissa, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh.”

But he made it clear that Manmohan Singh would remain the prime ministerial candidate of a Congress-led coalition government and that his party’s commitment to the India-US nuclear deal was not negotiable.

A day after Manmohan Singh said he was ready to hand over the party’s reins to young leaders, the son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi said in the interview: “From my side, I know - and I do know my mother’s views on this - that he is the best prime ministerial candidate.”

He said: “He (Manmohan Singh) is our candidate and we are going to stick by him. Like we did in the case of the nuclear deal.”

Manmohan Singh had told the same channel Saturday that Rahul Gandhi was an ideal candidate for the country’s top post.

Voicing similar conviction over the nuclear deal, Gandhi said the elections were indeed of concern to him but that there “are some issues in which there can be no compromise”.

He said: “For instance, we could have said ‘forget the nuclear deal’. But we did not take that approach. We persisted with it. Pretty much all of us knew that our government could have fallen if we persisted with it.

“But I am very clear that we need to take a longer-term perspective,” he added.

Manmohan Singh’s government was on the verge of collapse in July 2008 after the Left withdrew its legislative support over the nuclear deal. But the government survived a confidence vote in parliament.

Relations between the Congress and the Communists have been strained since then.

After Manmohan Singh’s frequent statements that his party had no qualms over doing business with the Left, Gandhi added the rider that this could not be minus the nuclear deal.

He told his interviewer: “I don’t think the Left feels a sense of betrayal (over the nuclear agreement). They have their point of view and we have ours. We are clear that we are not going to compromise on what we think is the right direction for the country and for the Congress.”

The Communists retorted that they could never do business again with the Congress as long as the nuclear deal remained.

“We do feel betrayed,” said S. Sudhakar Reddy of the Communist Party of India (CPI). “They have betrayed the people of the country, they have betrayed the Nehruvian foreign policy, they have betrayed the common minimum programme by signing this nuclear deal.

“There is no question of supporting a Congress-led government,” he added.

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