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Could govt-Left spat lead to right policies?

Could govt-Left spat lead to right policies?
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First Published: Mon, Aug 13 2007. 01 12 AM IST
Updated: Mon, Aug 13 2007. 01 12 AM IST
New Delhi: Experts and political analysts are divided on whether the stand-off between the government and the Left parties over the Indo-US nuclear deal will result in a more assertive government that pushes for economic reforms.
Senior analyst B.G. Verghese said the government might gain from the Prime Minister’s (PM) unprecedented assertiveness. “Statements from the Left leaders suggest that, after the PM’s statement, the Left parties will back off. If that happens, the government would have finally called their bluff. The government can benefit from this if it follows this through and sustains its stance.” In an interview published by The Telegraph on Sunday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the nuclear deal with the US could not be renegotiated and that the Left was free to withdraw support if that was what it wanted to do.
However, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank, said the government was unlikely to take on the Left in any domestic policy. “It’s a perfectly stable equilibrium,” he added, referring to the relationship between the government and the Left that has crimped several economic policies in the past three years. Crucial laws related to sectors such as insurance, pensions and higher education have suffered. Finance minister P. Chidambaram declined to comment on the impact of the government-Left spat on future policies.
A Congress minister, who did not wish to be identified, said the PM’s statement “is a stand-alone comment on the nuclear deal.” The PM is scheduled to make a statement on the nuclear agreement in Parliament on 13 August, followed by a discussion on 14 and 16 August. However, analysts also said it was unlikely that the Left would withdraw support to the government. “They know that the nuclear deal is not a mass issue. In fact, public opinion won’t look upon them kindly if they were to bring down the government on this issue,” said Mehta.
Meanwhile, even as the Congress tried to downplay its rift with the Left, representatives of the latter struck a strident note. “Nobody is withdrawing support, nor do we want them to do so. The Left parties are our partners. There are some issues, but they should not be magnified out of context,” said Murli Deora, minister of petroleum and natural gas.
“You should ask the Congress party if it wants to continue to run the government,” Communist Part of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat, said.
ashish.s@livemint.com
PTI contributed to this story.
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First Published: Mon, Aug 13 2007. 01 12 AM IST