UPA, Left still bogged down by nuclear row

June 23rd, 2008 - 9:13 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) A flaming row between India’s ruling coalition and its Left allies continued Monday over the India-US nuclear deal, as pressure mounted on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to save the government from possible collapse. With the Left refusing to soften its opposition to an India-safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Samajwadi Party playing hard to get, the Congress said that it wanted the Left on board on the nuclear deal.

A senior Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader told IANS there was no “major breakthrough” in the impasse and that it was up to the UPA-Left nuclear panel to take a final decision Wednesday.

Suddenly striking a conciliatory stand, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said: “We want the Left on board.”

The comment came as Congress allies in the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) declared that they were not enthusiastic about an early parliamentary election — which was bound to happen if the government collapsed after losing the Left’s vital legislative backing.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Lok Jan Shakti Party leader and Steel and Chemicals Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Railways Minister Lalu Yadav met Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence to discuss the crisis.

Although Lalu Prasad and Pawar support the nuclear deal, they are against jettisoning the Communists.

Manmohan Singh, who resumed going to office Monday after almost a week, is in favour of the India-safeguards agreement. Defence Minister A.K. Antony, one of Congress’ key negotiators with UPA allies over the deal, cancelled a trip to Japan due June 29 on account of “pressing domestic reasons”.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK leader M. Karunanidhi is expected here soon to urge the prime minister to find a way out of the stalemate to avoid a snap poll.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja met Karunanidhi in Chennai Sunday and sought his intervention, as the senior most leader of UPA, in sorting out the tangle over the deal.

A senior Left leader said Karunanidhi was of the view that an immediate election would bring the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) back to power.

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh meanwhile told NDTV that the government could not expect an “overnight” change in his party’s stand on the nuclear deal.

The Congress was hoping to get the Samajwadi Party to support the deal and also the UPA government on the floor of the Lok Sabha in case the Left withdrew support and the government needed to win a trust vote in parliament.

“I am in constant touch with Prakash Karat on the nuclear deal,” Amar Singh told NDTV. He said he had not received any telephone calls from the Congress seeking his party’s support.

He said the United Nationalist Progressive Alliance (UNPA), including the Samajwadi Party and Telugu Desam Party (TDP), would take a decision on the nuclear deal after consulting other Third Front members.

Sonia Gandhi is believed to have urged Manmohan Singh to look at ways to resolve amicably the row with the Communists, according to party sources.

“The nuclear issue is not something that can fetch the party votes, especially when the common man is facing such a steep price rise,” said a Congress Working Committee member who did not want to be named.

Congress allies also feel that the UPA is unlikely to gain from a snap election when prices of food and essential commodities are soaring.

“It (going to polls on nuclear issue) will not only be unwise but will be harmful. The common man is not concerned about the nuclear deal,” NCP MP Tariq Anwar told IANS.

“People are not happy with the government’s performance because of price rise. Besides, Muslims do not want a deal with (US President George W.) Bush,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a major ally of the Congress in Kerala, has threatened to quit the coalition if the government went ahead with the deal.

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