UPA plunges into fresh crisis as Mayawati withdraws support (Lead)

June 21st, 2008 - 7:50 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) The embattled Manmohan Singh government, trying to stave off a survival crisis over the Left’s opposition to the India-US civil nuclear deal, Saturday got a fresh jolt with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) withdrawing support, accusing it of failing to curb inflation and price rise. The BSP with 17 MPs in the Lok Sabha supports the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside.

At a press conference in Delhi, BSP leader and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati announced she was withdrawing support. “For me, the Congress and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) are the same. In case of a no-trust against the UPA government, I will decide on the basis of the issue. The Congress has failed to curb price rise.”

Relations between the Congress and the BSP have rapidly deteriorated since Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi started wooing Dalits in Uttar Pradesh - who Mayawati considers her vote bank - in an effort to resurrect the Congress in the state.

Sources in the party said that though Mayawati was not a firm ally of the UPA, her party’s decision to withdraw support have made things more difficult for the Manmohan Singh government.

The Congress as well as its allies in the UPA are worried over the impact the prise rise and inflation, which has crossed 11 percent, will have on the electorate in case of early general elections.

Sources pointed out that Mayawati’s move will drive the Congress closer to the Samajwadi Party (SP) in this hour of crisis. The Congress is hoping that the Samajwadi Party, with its 37 MPs, will bail the government out in case the Left withdraws support and the government has to face a trust motion on the floor of Lok Sabha.

The Samajwadi Party, which is at loggerheads with the BSP, has indicated to the Congress its willingness to consider supporting the nuclear deal.

Hours before Mayawati announced her decision, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) shot off a fresh salvo against the UPA government on the India-US nuclear deal.

Accusing the government of promoting a “bad” nuclear deal with the intention of furthering India-US strategic ties, the CPI-M politburo said, “Mythical energy claims are being made in order to promote a bad nuclear deal. Energy is just a cover. The real intent is India-US strategic ties.”

“The Congress leadership and the UPA government are propagating that the Indo-US nuclear deal is absolutely essential for India’s energy security. A massive disinformation campaign has been mounted that nuclear energy is a solution not only to the shortage of electricity in the country but also an answer to the oil price rise,” said the CPIM.

The Congress however seems to be sticking to its decision to move the nuclear deal forward.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the Congress’ chief negotiator on the deal, met the prime minister and briefed him on the continued stalemate.

Mukherjee, during his 40-minute meeting with Manmohan Singh, apprised him of the discussions he has had with the Left and the UPA partners. Friday night Mukherjee and Defence Minister A.K. Antony had a two-hour meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the impasse over the nuclear deal.

Sources in the government said they did not anticipate a breakthrough in the stalemate. While the Congress is firmly sticking to its stand of backing the prime minister on the deal, the Left parties are equally adamant on squashing it.

Neither side is expecting a breakthrough in the deliberations scheduled June 25 to take a final view on the deal.

In fact a senior CPI-M politburo member Friday said that the party will pull out support if the government went to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to finalise the India-specific safeguards for the deal. He also said the Left will try and ensure that the deal does not go through.

Karat has made it clear that it is up to the prime minister to save the government. He told Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar, who met him Friday, that it was Manmohan Singh who had said that his government was not a “single-issue government”.

Mukherjee Friday said that there was “no improvement” in the situation.

UPA allies like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the NCP and DMK, which are supporting the nuclear deal, have told the government that it should try to keep the Left on board.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and Rajya Sabha MP D. Raja had a telephonic conversation with DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Saturday to discuss the impasse over the deal. Raja will go to Chennai Sunday to meet Karunanidhi for further discussions.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, in an interview to the CNN-IBN, said Sonia Gandhi is as committed to seeing the nuclear deal through as the prime minister, and that the deal will go through before the year end.

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