New Delhi: A day after the government signalled its intent to move ahead on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the Left parties stepped up their attack against the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and implicitly criticized Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi. The latest salvo followed a meeting on Sunday of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) politburo, the party’s highest decision-making body.
Latest salvo: The CPM politburo meeting in progress on Sunday. The party attacked the govt for a ‘flagrant violation of the understanding’ arrived at between the Left-UPA committee on the nuclear deal.
It came after Saturday’s meeting of Congress general secretaries where Gandhi backed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to approach the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on India-specific safeguards related to the nuclear deal. Gandhi also told the party to prepare for elections.
The Congress party is confident that an alliance with Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party (SP) would help it counter the Left’s withdrawal of backing for the UPA government over the nuclear deal. The Congress leadership’s insistence on going to the IAEA is a “flagrant violation of the understanding arrived at in 16 November, 2007 (at a) meeting of the UPA-Left Committee on the nuclear deal,” CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said. “In case the government decides to go ahead with such a harmful agreement, which has no majority support in the Parliament, the CPM will withdraw support to the UPA government in concert with the Left parties,” he said.
Karat criticized the government for misplacing policy priorities. He vowed to launch a campaign with other Left parties to expose the Congress-led government’s “surrender of national interests” and failure to tackle rising prices. “The Manmohan Singh government has abjectly failed to tackle inflation,” Karat said.
“It is unfortunate that at a time when the government should be gearing up to take comprehensive steps to tackle inflation and price rise, the Prime Minister and the Congress leadership are more concerned about fulfilling their commitment” to US President George W. Bush to “operationalize the nuclear deal,” he added. The reference to the Congress leadership was seen as an allusion to Gandhi, the first time that the CPM had even tacitly criticised the UPA leader, after targeting the prime minister.
The government, meanwhile plans to open “formal channels” to the SP after 3 July, said a person close to the Congress who did not wish to be identified. Either National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan or former foreign secretary Shyam Saran would be deputed to brief the party about the nuclear deal, the person said.
SP leaders have maintained that they were not aware of “the salient features and facts” of the nuclear agreement. The party has said it would decide on whether to support the UPA after a 3 July meeting of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), the so-called third front of which it is the main constituent.
The Times of India reported on 29 June that the UPA had decided that if the SP was willing to support it, then the government would move the IAEA. The SP has 39 members in Lok Sabha, whose support would be critical for the government to offset the loss of Left backing and for it to maintain a majority of 272 seats in the lower House.
“We may consider voting against the government in case of a no-confidence motion,” S. Ramachandran Pillai, a CPM politburo member, said. At the same time, the politburo tried to reach out to Congress allies.
“The UPA was formed to keep communal forces at bay,” it said. “We appeal to the partners of the Congress in the UPA to ensure that no such steps are taken which will help the communal forces.” That was an evident reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition party, and the possibility that a nuclear deal would alienate the Muslims from the UPA.
Meanwhile, the BJP asked the government to seek a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha on the issue. “We will ask the government to face a confidence vote in the Lok Sabha on the nuclear issue following the present political situation,” party leader L.K. Advani said at a rally in Rourkela, Orissa.
PTI contributed to this story.