Samajwadi Party buys time, Congress confident of numbers(Roundup)

July 3rd, 2008 - 9:40 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) The Congress party’s hopes of a quick resolution of the political crisis receded Thursday with the Samajwadi Party delaying its final decision on backing the government, saying it needed to consult independent minded scientists on the pros and cons of the India-US nuclear deal. While a beleaguered Congress put up a brave face saying it was confident of completing its five-year term, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been passive vis-a-vis the political turmoil until now, became pro-active in a bid to trip the ruling party.

“We have not set any deadline for the UNPA (United National Progressive Alliance). We are okay with the UNPA taking time,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said, referring to the regional alliance of which the Samajwadi Party is a member along with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) among others.

Congress leader M. Veerappa Moily added: “We are confident the government will complete its full term. When I say confident, I mean the government has numbers (to prove its majority in parliament).”

The high drama of Thursday was played out at the residence of Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, where UNPA leaders were huddled for nearly four hours discussing the Congress attempts to wean away the Samajwadi Party to save its government and the nuclear deal in the event of a Left withdrawal of support.

Once the meeting ended and UNPA stalwarts trooped out, they said in unison that they had “doubts” on the viability of the deal and sought a national debate on the issue.

Amar Singh, who along with his party colleague Ram Gopal Yadav met National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan Wednesday for a briefing on the deal, said there was need for an independent expert to understand its nuances.

Soon afterward, Amar Singh, Ram Gopal Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav drove to meet former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who has publicly come out in support of the nuclear agreement with the US.

TDP chief and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, another key member of the UNPA, said: “We have left it to the PM. We appeal … for a national debate.”

All UNPA leaders - Mulayam Singh Yadav, Naidu and INLD’s Om Prakash Chautala - said they remained opposed to the Congress-led government on several issues such as soaring food prices and agricultural policies.

“Till July 6, we are not giving certificate to the government. There should be a national debate on the issue,” former Haryana chief minister Chautala.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves around July 6 for Japan to attend the G8 summit where he is expected to meet US President George Bush and discuss the stalled nuclear deal.

In an apparent move to counter the Congress, which is desperately hunting for friends in the Lok Sabha, BJP strategist M. Venkaiah Naidu said his party would try to wean away smaller political outfits away from the deal.

“We want this government to go at the earliest not only on the nuclear deal issue but also on due to its failure on several other fronts such as inflation and internal security,” Naidu said here.

The Left meanwhile remained firm in its uncompromising opposition to the deal.

Addressing a press conference after its Central Secretariat meeting, Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan said: “Consistent with its principled stand, the Left will have to withdraw its outside support to the government. The CPI is proposing to other Left parties who are meeting Friday to consider the modalities of withdrawal of support.”

Accusing the government of spending its energy on the nuclear deal instead of containing rising food prices, Bardhan said the Left parties would ask the government to say if it was going to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement or not.

“The moment we come to know they are going, we will withdraw support,” he said.

Bardhan’s remarks left the Congress leaders livid. “They are blackmailing the government and the prime minister. We want to know what will they gain by bringing the government down,” said Moily.

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