New Delhi: Efforts by the Samajwadi Party (SP) to help the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rescue the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal gathered momentum on Thursday as it got former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to endorse the pact and convinced its allies in the so-called Third Front of the need for a “national debate” on the issue.
According to PTI, Kalam told SP leaders, who met him late in the evening, after a crucial meeting of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) that “the deal was in national interest”.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also said Kalam’s views will be conveyed to UNPA leaders “before deciding on the future course of action”. The UPA is counting on the SP’s support to push through the deal and remain in office after Left parties vowed to withdraw their backing for the coalition government.
Earlier in the day, a three-and-a-half-hour meeting of the UNPA ended on a “united” note, contrary to speculations that the alliance would split over differences over the nuclear deal.
Some analysts said that with the endorsement by Kalam, the SP can now possibly alter the anti-Muslim tag attached to the nuclear deal in its favour. “The reason for consulting Kalam is that he is a top-notch scientist in the country and his words would carry credibility,” said senior journalist B.G. Varghese.
SP, whose 39 members in the Parliament are crucial for the UPA government if the Left withdraws support, continued to express its solidarity with the Congress by saying, “communalism is a bigger danger than the nuclear deal”.
SP leaders also appeared satisfied with the explanations given to them by national security adviser M.K. Narayanan on Wednesday. UNPA spokesman and SP leader Amar Singh said: “There was some error in the past. It is human to err. It was a communication gap earlier (when the SP did not support the Congress to keep the National Democratic Alliance out of power). It was (former Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary) Harkishen Singh Surjeet’s dream that all secular forces should come together. Do you want the errors to continue?”
The SP has to deal with conflicting pressures from allies in the UNPA and the Left, said Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi-based think tank.
“It also has to deal with a mini rebellion within its own party,” he said. “A charitable speculation, however, would be that right now it is trying to create a reasonable case for what it is going to do,” he said.
UNPA member and Indian National Lok Dal chief O.P. Chautala said that the alliance would not give “any certificate” of support for the deal before 6 July, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes for the G-8 summit in Japan.
Alliance leaders, however, said they were not satisfied even after the Prime Minister’s Office issued clarifications on the deal and demanded an independent expert review and explain it to the nation.
The Left, meanwhile, continued to remain belligerent in its opposition to the agreement. High-level committees of two Left parties—the Communist Party of India and the All India Forward Bloc—met on Thursday to discuss the issue.
K.P. Narayana Kumar and PTI contributed to this story.