The furore over the nuclear deal with the United States may have been temporarily muffled by the Congress’s efforts to address the concerns of the Left parties, but in a seemingly choreographed action on Saturday, the CPI shot a broadside at the government while the CPM kept its counsel.
CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan told a television news channel in excerpts of an interview to be shown on Sunday that it was up to the government to commit “sati” on the nuclear deal. “We don’t want this government to fall but it wants to commit sati on this issue,” the CPI leader said.
Bardhan’s comments were made public soon after his CPM counterpart Prakash Karat conveyed to him his party central committee’s (CC) endorsement of the Left’s decision to ask the government to press the “pause” button on the deal until their concerns over America’s Hyde Act were addressed.
The Left feels that the Hyde Act impinges upon India’s foreign policy options since it requires the US government to annually tell the US Congress that New Delhi’s policies are in line with those of Washington’s. The Left parties are planning a huge protest in Visakhapatnam against India’s participation in a naval exercise with the US and other countries that is slated to begin next month.
“The CC had endorsed the joint Left parties’ decision that the government should not operationalise the nuclear deal. Karat conveyed this to Bardhan,” CPI leader D. Raja told HT.
But all was not well in the Left camp either. The Forward Bloc, a Left bloc ally took a swipe at the CPM for waiting for a Congress response (on setting up a committee) instead of withdrawing support. Party leader Debabrata Biswas told a rally in Kolkata that there was “confusion, vacillation and contradictions” within the CPM and other Left parties on pulling the rug. “If only the gain and loss of withdrawing support is calculated, can we fight imperialism?’’ he asked.
The remarks came a day after the Congress’s core group—which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party chief Sonia Gandhi—decided to talk to the communists next week about a panel that would address their concerns about the deal.
“The day and time of the meeting with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi is not decided. It could be sometime next week,” said Raja.
In Chennai, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said talks were on with UPA allies and the Left. His colleague Kapil Sibal said a parliamentary debate would help address the Left’s concerns.
Railway Minister and RJD chief Lalu Yadav ruled out any threat to the government as no party wants mid-term polls.
Karat and Bardhan also discussed the nationwide protests the Left parties are launching in the first week of September against the joint naval drill in the Bay of Bengal, which they think would lay the basis for an Asian version of Nato. Raja said Bardhan would lead the supporters from Kolkata and Karat and he himself would be leading them from Chennai. The two groups would converge in Visakhapatnam on September 8.
The exercise is slated for September 4-9.