UPA enjoys majority in parliament: Pranab (Second Lead)

July 21st, 2008 - 7:48 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) Asserting that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was not in a minority, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday cautioned the Left parties against repeating the “mistake” they made in the past by voting with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the Congress. Speaking in the Lok Sabha during the debate on the confidence motion, Mukherjee claimed the Congress-led UPA continues to enjoy majority in parliament with the support of the Samajwadi Party even though the Left parties had withdrawn support from it this month.

“The day the Left parties withdrew support, the same day within half an hour, the Samajwadi Party extended its support to the government,” the minister said.

He said that though the Left parties withdrew the support of their 61 members, with the support of the 39 Samajwadi Party MPs, the government has the backing of 276 members - a simple majority in the lower house with an effective strength of 541 members.

“My simple arithmetic is 237 plus 39 is 276. The government is not a minority; it still enjoys a simple majority in the house. What will happen when the buttons will be pushed… if it is proved we have lost the majority, then it is proved,” Mukherjee added.

He cautioned the Left parties: “Please do not make the mistake you had made in the past by voting with the BJP against the Congress.”

The external affairs minister, who was the chief negotiator for the UPA to convince the Left parties on the civil nuclear deal that India plans to sign with the US, was Monday fielded by the Congress as its main speaker to defend the government’s trust motion in the Lok Sabha.

Mukherjee based his argument on three fundamental points: the government has not been reduced to a minority, the nuclear deal was good for India as it will end the decades-long “nuclear apartheid” imposed on it, and the UPA has not resorted to stealth in negotiating the agreement with the US, rather it has kept parliament informed at every important stage.

“I don’t remember any other foreign policy issue that was so intensely and exhaustively debated and discussed in parliament,” he said and listed out the various stages - from the July 5 joint statement to the separation plan of India’s nuclear installations to the text of safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

He stressed that since the Left parties expressed their opposition to the nuclear deal, a special committee was set up on the initiative of UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to brief them on the IAEA negotiations.

Referring to the Left parties’ charge that the draft of the safeguards agreement was shown to it much later and only after it was posted on American websites, he argued that the “classified document” could not be shown to them before it was circulated among the 35 members of the IAEA board of governors.

“The India-US nuclear deal will open the door (of global nuclear commerce with India) and end 30 years isolation of nuclear technology,” Mukherjee said. “Some will even use the word apartheid and not only isolation. But the deal will open the door to nuclear technology.”

He also argued that the controversial Hyde Act, which many fear would curb India’s strategic programme, was not applicable to it and would not have any adverse effects on it if the government were to sign and operationalise the 123 agreement with the US.

Explaining the need to negotiate the safeguards agreement with the IAEA and the importance of getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) exemption to allow civil nuclear energy commerce between its members and India, Mukherjee said: ” The IAEA and NSG are like the passport and visa for the nuclear club.”

He argued that even India’s friends like Russia and France will not be able to cooperate with New Delhi on civil nuclear energy unless the NSG gave its required exemption to its guidelines for nuclear commerce between its members and India.

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