PM trying to isolate us on n-deal, says Left

March 7th, 2008 - 4:02 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Liz Mathew
New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) India’s Left leaders feel betrayed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who they say is trying to isolate them on the India-US nuclear deal by seeking the opposition’s help in taking the contentious pact ahead. The Left’s fresh ultimatum to the government Thursday, asking it to take a quick and clear decision on the deal, was a direct “reaction” to Manmohan Singh’s appeal to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the Rajya Sabha for support on the deal.

“It was an attempt to isolate Left parties, who oppose the deal vehemently. What else did he mean by asking the BJP to support the deal in national interest?” asked a Left leader.

Lauding former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the “Bhishma Pitamah” (father figure) of Indian politics, Manmohan Singh had asked the BJP leader to “listen to the call of his conscience” and back the deal by rising above party politics.

Sources said the prime minister’s call to Vajpayee and the opposition prompted Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat to immediately discuss the matter with his allies in the other Left parties and then write to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, seeking an urgent meeting of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-Left nuclear committee.

Karat asked Mukherjee, who heads the 15-member committee, to convene the meeting by March 15 to discuss the latest developments in New Delhi’s negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the India-specific safeguard agreement.

Expressing their anger, Left leaders say they had given a green signal to the government for discussions with the IAEA, even though they had opposed it earlier, to avoid a “mid-term poll” and allow the UPA to work out an honourable exit from the agreement with Washington.

“They wanted an honourable exit from the deal then. They wanted to tell the outside world that the government was keen but was not able to evolve a political consensus on it,” said a senior Left leader requesting anonymity.

The communists had threatened to withdraw their crucial legislative support if the UPA government went ahead with the deal. But they permitted the government to go ahead with the IAEA negotiations on the condition that no agreement should be finalised before they were consulted.

“Now, the government is harping on its intentions to go ahead with the deal despite our understanding that it would not be done,” said a CPI-M insider, pointing to President Pratibha Patil’s address to parliament in which she “hoped” that the deal would be through.

“And the foreign minister said efforts were still on while the prime minister went ahead and sought the opposition’s support,” the Left leader said, terming the successive moves a “breach of faith”.

This, when CPI-M politburo member Sitaram Yechury, who was negotiating with the government, met Mukherjee last week to see the text of the agreement with the IAEA, he added.

On Thursday, a furious CPI-M lashed out at the government in an article tellingly titled “The turning point has arrived” in the party mouthpiece People’s Democracy. It warned the government that the Left would “take all the necessary steps to stop the government” from going ahead with the deal.

The CPI-M’s Central Committee, which began its two-day meeting here Friday, is expected to discuss further course of action. The Central Committee had earlier authorised the politburo to decide the party’s stance on the deal.

The CPI-M’s smaller allies have already asked it to “review” the Left’s support to the Congress-led government.

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