New Delhi: The Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance, or UPA, on Friday managed to clinch support for the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement from Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, or SP, confirming that a split with Left parties is now a mere formality. Meanwhile, the Left, which provides outside support to the government, set a deadline of 7 July for the coalition to clarify its position on a safeguards treaty with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
SP leader Amar Singh said he is “happy” with the deal, advancing from the party’s non-committal stance and emboldening the Congress to assert its readiness to prove a majority in the Lok Sabha.
SP leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav (left) and Amar Singh address the media after their meeting with the PM on the nuclear deal (Photo by: Subhav Shukla/PTI)
“We want to thank Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav for considering this deal in national interest and supporting the deal,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmad said.
Yadav and Amar Singh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Friday to express their support for the deal and the government, after they were convinced that the agreement was in “national interest.” The SP leaders have been briefed on the facts of the nuclear deal by national security adviser M.K. Narayanan.
“Earlier we were opposing it (the deal) because we did not have these facts,” Yadav said.
Amar Singh on Thursday said he was not satisfied with the Prime Minister’s clarifications on the deal. After meeting Manmohan Singh on Friday, he said: “The Prime Minister gave a point-by-point reply. We are happy.”
The Left has vowed to withdraw support for the UPA over the nuclear deal, making the SP’s backing crucial for the coalition to continue in office.
“We wish to know whether the government is proceeding to seek the approval of the safeguards agreement by the board of governors of the IAEA,” the general secretaries of four Left parties wrote in a letter to external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Asked whether the Left would wait for the Prime Minister to return from the 7-8 July Group of Eight summit in Japan before withdrawing its support, Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan said: “If they tell us they are going (to the IAEA) on 5 or 6 of July, we will withdraw then itself. But in the normal course, we will wait till he comes back.”
Reacting to the Left’s demand, Congress spokesman Ahmad said: “The party stands fully behind the government. The government will decide about going ahead.”
However, with this change in political dynamics, analysts say the Congress seems to have traded a relatively stable ally for an unstable partner.
“SP is definitely going to be a more demanding ally than the Left and will demand its pound of flesh. The Left, on the other hand, had given outside support without any expectations of a power-sharing arrangement,” said political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao, who also writes a column for Mint.
“Parting with the Left is not a matter of choice for the government but has become a compulsion since it does not want to sacrifice the deal. The Left, on its part, is likely to resort to a silent withdrawal. The doors for future alliances with each other (Congress and Left) are not shut though they will be wary about dealing with each other,” said Rao. He added that another term for Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister with Left support can, however, be completely ruled out.
The UPA said it is ready to prove its strength in Parliament. “The government has the numbers. It is ready to prove it in the Lok Sabha,” said Vayalar Ravi, a Congress leader and parliamentary affairs minister.
PTI contributed to this story.