New Delhi: A denouement of the crisis between the United Progressive Alliance government and the supporting Left parties on the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear deal is near at hand.
Following the postponement of the UPA-Left coordination committee meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, the two sides seem to be preparing for a parting of ways. This means withdrawal of Left support to the minority government and the fall of the government. If that happens, a November-December 2008 general election is virtually guaranteed.
A few hours before the coordination committee was to meet, the government’s main negotiator, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and the Left parties agreed on a postponement to June 25. This happened after the Left leaders learnt that the Manmohan Singh government had decided to go ahead with the nuclear deal.
Later in the evening, the Left leaders reiterated their position that “the government should not proceed to seek approval of the text of the India specific safeguards agreement from the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” The statement — signed by Prakash Karat (CPI-M), A.B. Bardhan (CPI), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc), and T.J. Chandrachoodan (RSP) — noted that “the text [of the draft of the safeguards agreement] has not been made available to the committee. As far as the Left parties are concerned, they have not been able to form any opinion on the text of the safeguards agreement.”
However, according to a senior prime ministerial aide, the Left had never formally asked that it be shown the “frozen text.”
In their statement, the Left leaders recalled that “on November 16, 2007, it was decided that talks with the IAEA secretariat would be held for working out the text of the safeguards agreement. Thereafter, the outcome of the talks will be presented to the committee for its consideration before it finalises its findings. The findings of the committee will have to be taken into account before proceeding further.”
The Left stand could not have come as a surprise to the government. After the prolonged discussions between Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Karat meeting on Monday evening, the government could not have had the slightest doubt about the CPI(M)’s and the Left’s firm opposition to letting the 123 agreement to go forward. Although the ostensible reason for seeking a postponement was Mr. Mukherjee’s pre-occupation with the visiting Syrian President Assad, the government was disinclined to prolong the dialogue with the Left unless it produced a “final decision” in favour of the deal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh went on Wednesday morning to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s residence and is believed to have discussed the implications of the Left’s unchanged position. According to informed sources, the Prime Minister — who some weeks ago gave the impression that he was reconciled to the demise of the nuclear deal — has once again taken the stand that he cannot continue in office if he cannot go forward with the deal.
He is scheduled to travel to Japan next month to attend the G-8 summit and would like to go there without any uncertainty about his government’s intentions on the nuclear deal.
The Congress managers have begun to sound the leaders of the ruling party’s UPA allies about the political implications of breaking with the Left parties on this issue. In the evening, Mr. Mukherjee called on Ms. Gandhi.
According to Congress sources, the government could announce in a day or two its intention to go to the IAEA Board of Governors with the safeguards agreement it has negotiated with the agency’s secretariat.
Courtesy: The Hindu