New Delhi: Even as the Communist Party of India (Marxist) reiterated its warning to the Congress Party against going ahead with the India-US nuclear agreement, it also indicated that it is unlikely to immediately withdraw support to the government.
“The central committee does not want the current crisis to affect the government. However, this is contingent upon the government not proceeding further with the agreement,” said CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, reading a statement that was released at the end of the two-day emergency meeting of the party’s top decision-making body.
Standing firm: CPM general secretary Prakash Karat addresses the media at the party headquarters in New Delhi after the central committee meeting on Thursday
“The government has managed to buy time. Now it can work on some kind of a political patch-up with the Left parties,” suggests political analyst Mahesh Rangarajan. “The Left, clearly, doesn’t want to be seen as party to bringing down the government with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, especially since it realizes it will find it next to impossible to repeat its electoral performance of 2004, when it did exceptionally in both West Bengal and Kerala. But the government, too, might have to go slow on the nuclear deal.”
Addressing the media a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought the support of visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the nuclear deal, Karat said, “We don’t expect the prime minister to not talk to the Japanese PM. We know the government is talking to all members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (the 45-nation grouping which needs to individually ratify the deal, after the International Atomic Energy Agency has approved it, before it goes to the US Congress for the final nod). All we are saying is the government should not proceed further with the next steps to operationalize the deal. We are waiting for the response of the Congress.”
Responding to Singh’s remark, “if winter is here, can spring be far behind”, in the context of the Congress-Left rift, Karat quipped, “I hope there will be no nuclear fission and...a long nuclear winter.”
Karat announced that the Left parties will jointly conduct a nationwide mass campaign, between 4-8 September, with the CPM doing so on its own until 15 September, against the nuclear deal and “the way the tie-up with the US is affecting the various policies which affect the people’s livelihood, economic sovereignty and independent foreign policy.”
The protest is timed to coincide with the scheduled visit of Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, to Vienna for an IAEA meeting.
The CPM has said it has no objection to Kakodkar attending the meeting, only to his discussing the India-specific safeguards agreement.
CPM, the principal constituent of the four-party Left Front, which provides a critical support to the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, has been defying pressure from its Left partners to take an unambiguous stand against the ruling coalition.
Abani Roy, general secretary and a Rajya Sabha member of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, one of the four parties that comprise the Left Front, conceded that the government had won a reprieve.
“After today’s statement of the CPM, I don’t think the government will fall. It has got time at least until 15 September. And once Anil Kakodkar goes to the IAEA meet, how can the CPM ensure he doesn’t proceed further on the deal? The government has repeatedly said it is proceeding with the agreement and all that the CPM has done is issue empty threats.”
Karat reiterated that the Left support is “contingent upon the government not proceeding further with the agreement”. He said, “It is incumbent on the government, which commands a majority in Parliament only with the support of the Left parties, to heed the voices of opposition (on the nuclear deal).”
The West Bengal unit of the CPM, embattled with public discontent over land acquisitions in Singur and Nandigram, had openly criticized the party bosses in Delhi over the threats to withdraw support to the UPA and potentially bring about early general elections.
There was no immediate response from the Congress Party to the CPM statement. Party president Sonia Gandhi is expected to meet the Left leaders soon in yet another bid to reach an agreement on the nuclear deal.