PM to Left: After IAEA, NSG, we’ll come back to parliament (Roundup)

June 30th, 2008 - 11:18 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) With a split with the Left parties looking imminent, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday made one last-ditch effort to bring scpetics on board and win new allies for the India-US nuclear deal, saying that he will bring the deal to parliament before “operationalising” it. The prime minister’s plea, however, failed to cut any ice with the Left leaders who saw “nothing new” in what the prime minister was saying and made it clear there was no change in their opposition to the deal as well.

“I have said it before. I will repeat it again that you allow us to complete the process. Once the process is over, I will bring it before parliament and abide by the house,” Manmohan Singh told reporters at his residence after releasing the National Action Plan on Climate Change.

“I agree to come to parliament before I proceed to operationalise (the deal). What can be more reasonable than this?” he said in one last-ditch effort to get the Left parties to shed their opposition to the deal, which could lead to a final parting of ways between the UPA and the Left.

“If parliament feels you (government) have done some wrong, so be it,” the prime minister said.

“All that I want is the authority to proceed with the process of negotiations through all stages like the IAEA and NSG that will not not tie down the hands of the country,” he said in response to a question.

The prime minister said categorically that he wanted to finalise the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) agreement.

The prime minister’s assurance about bringing the deal to parliament was aimed more at the fence-sitters and possible allies as there is near negligible chance of the Left changing its position.

Playing down the communist threat of withdrawing support, the prime minister stressed there was nothing new in what they said but hoped that the government would be able to address concerns of all stakeholders, including the Left parties, on the deal.

“…We can still work out an outcome that will satisfy all parties,” he said.

The prime minister also tried to play down speculation about an early poll in case the Left lived up to its threat. “I don’t see elections,” he said.

The prime minister’s assurance, however, failed to arrest the deepening schism between the government and the Left parties.

“We stand by what our politburo said Sunday. There is no change in our stance,” the Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member S. Ramachandra Pillai told IANS.

The CPI-M-led Left parties, which have 61 MPs in the Lok Sabha, prop up Manmohan Singh’s coalition government with outside support.

After a meeting of the party politburo Sunday, the CPI-M issued a statement: “In case the government decides to go ahead with such a harmful agreement, which has no majority support in parliament, the CPI-M will withdraw support to the UPA government in concert with the Left parties.”

The office bearers of the Congress are meeting Tuesday to discuss the party’s stance in the wake of the CPI-M’s declaration.

Echoing the prime minister’s position, the ruling Congress party pledged its support to the embattled nuclear deal and kept alive hopes of a workable consensus on the deal.

“We stand committed to the nuclear deal and bringing on board all those who support us from outside and people and society,” Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said. “The channel of dialogue is always open.”

“If we have to get the deal approved by the US Congress, we have to get the IAEA final nod by the first half of July,” said a minister in Manmohan Singh’s government.

He said the government had to get the India-specific safeguards agreement approved by IAEA board of governors by the first half of July and the consent of the NSG by August-September. The timeframe would have to be kept “so the special session of the US Congress, which is meeting in October, can pass the 123 agreement”.

“If we have to save the deal, we have to finalise the IAEA pact as early as possible,” the minister added.

The Congress, still divided over taking the support of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, is open to the option.

“If the Congress manages to get the Samajwadi Party on board, we will have a strong ally in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has failed to make any impact for the last few years,” said a Congress leader.

Despite apprehensions about how trustworthy the Samajawadi Party is, the party leadership appears keen to shake hands with it. At a meeting of Congress general secretaries and those in-charge of states, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also believed to have expressed her desire to back Manmohan Singh.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, who is abroad, is expected to return Monday night. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party is likely to take a decision on its ties with the Congress after the general secretary’s arrival.

Mulayam Singh has announced that the third grouping United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), launched to form a non-Congress and non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) front, will finalise its stance over the deal Thursday.

The next day, the CPI-M and other Left parties will meet.

Although UNPA allies like the TDP have publicly said they would persuade the Samajwadi Party against backing Congress, Mulayam Singh said Monday: “We do not have enmity with anyone.”

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