PM confident of numbers, says will face trust vote (Intro Roundup)

July 10th, 2008 - 10:36 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) The political crisis over the controversial nuclear deal continued to buffet the Indian government even after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on return earlier in the day from the G8 summit in Japan, Thursday informed President Pratibha Patil he would seek a vote of confidence in parliament. Confident of the numbers after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government secured support of the Samajwadi Party, the prime minister in his 30-minute meeting told the president he would face the trust vote in the Lok Sabha.

“The prime minister told the president that he will seek a vote of confidence and the government will communicate the date (for special session of the parliament) by Friday evening,” Sanjaya Baru, media advisor to Manmohan Singh, told IANS.

According to government sources, the Manmohan Singh government has an “assured support” of 280 MPs — eight more than the magical number of 272 to prove majority in the Lok Sabha.

India Wednesday submitted a draft nuclear inspection plan to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inviting sharp criticism from the Left and opposition parties.

The ruling Congress dismissed allegations of “deceit” over the nuclear deal as the Left kept up its strident attack and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately prove his parliamentary majority.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal asserted that the government decided to approach the IAEA for circulation of the text of the safeguards pact Tuesday afternoon only after the Left parties formally withdrew their support.

Sibal stressed that India will file a declaration of its nuclear facilities to the IAEA for safeguards only after the NSG has changed its guidelines to allow nuclear trade with India and an endorsement by the US Congress. “We are not committing India to anything right now,” he said.

The IAEA is expected to meet July 28 to consider the India-specific safeguards pact that accommodates New Delhi’s three concerns - uninterrupted fuel supplies, the right to build strategic reserve of fuel and corrective action in case of disruption of supply of fuel. The IAEA text leaves India’s military facilities out of purview.

Without joining hands, the BJP and Left parties denounced the UPA government for taking the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement to the IAEA while denying it to people within the country.

In his second press conference in as many days, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat attacked the government for going to the IAEA.

“We will fight every step to stop this deal. We will make it impossible for the government to go ahead with the deal,” he thundered.

“It is shocking and a betrayal of not just the Left but the country and the people. It is a sad state of affairs. All sorts of concoctions are being put forward. We want the prime minister to answer.”

Advani accused the government of adopting a “deceitful attitude” over the nuclear deal and said it had lost “all credibility” by secretly taking the safeguards pact text to the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog.

“We have a feeling that a conspiracy is afoot to present the nation with a fait accompli by rushing it through behind closed doors,” Advani said, after a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

“This is something no government should do, least of all a minority government. The UPA has made India a laughing stock. It must seek a vote of confidence immediately.”

Still in search of numbers that would help it win a trust vote in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, the Congress party remained unfazed by the barrage of criticism.

Talking to reporters, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said: “It was unfortunate that Prakash Karat accused the government of hiding things from the people.”

Ravi said the UPA government has 280-plus MPs to support it in a floor test.

“It is wrong to interpret the request for convening the meeting of the Board of Governors of IAEA as going to IAEA,” said Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily.

“After the text of the IAEA was circulated to the members of the Board of Governors, it no more remained restricted. The government took prompt action to place the document on its website,” he said.

He also asserted that the government “will go for a trust vote and then go to the IAEA”.

Sibal rejected allegations about “an opportunistic alliance” between the Congress and the Samajawadi Party over the nuclear deal.

“We will like all political parties to come on board on this issue. We will like the BJP to reconsider this folly. Don’t commit this act of anti-nationalism,” he said.

“That would have been the most opportunistic thing to do. We, too, could have gone for the soft option. It was the easiest thing for us to make a compromise with the Left and tell US President George Bush we can’t do it,” he said.

“But we have decided to go ahead with it because we believe it’s time to rise above petty politics and take a decision in national,” he said while vigorously batting for the nuclear deal which he said will end India’s international nuclear isolation.

Sibal said the nuclear deal was necessary to end India’s global nuclear isolation. “We believe we have an international commitment and we have honored it.”

The government is expected to soon convene a special session of parliament to prove its majority. The monsoon session of parliament is set to start Aug 11.

In a clear bid to embarrass the government, the communists underlined that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said publicly that New Delhi would first seek a trust vote and then go to the IAEA.

Mukherjee had also told Karat, the CPI-M leader said, that the text of the safeguards pact was a privileged document and could not be shared with a third party without going through the laid down procedures of IAEA.

In other developments, US ambassador David Mulford met Prime Minister Singh to discuss the future steps in the implementation of the nuclear deal.

He briefed Manmohan Singh about his meetings with envoys of nearly two dozen countries belonging to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Wednesday, said diplomatic sources.

After India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA is approved by the Board of Governors and signed by the two parties, the 45-member NSG will consider changing its guidelines on nuclear commerce in New Delhi’s favour.

The nuclear deal will then go for a formal US presidential determination before heading for approval by the US Congress.

With only 40 legislative days left in the Congressional calendar after the house returns from recess later this year, the process will have to be fast-tracked at each stage for the 123 bilateral agreement to come before the two chambers of US Congress.

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