National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon on Wednesday met senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders seeking to remove misgivings about the civil nuclear liability bill, but the party said it maintained its "strong opposition" to the legislation in its present form.
Government sources said Menon apprised the BJP leaders - Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, his deputy S S Ahluwalia, Murli Manohar Joshi and Yashwant Sinha - about the benefits of the bill that seeks to set up a legal mechanism to ensure that victims of a nuclear accident are able to claim financial compensation from the operator.
Menon's meeting with the BJP top brass, apparently at the behest of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was an attempt by the government to explain to the opposition leaders the benefits of the bill which is key to making the India-US nuclear deal operational.
The BJP and the Left parties are vehemently opposing a clause in the legislation that seeks to limit the liability of an operator to Rs.500 crore (about $11 million).
The government was forced to defer the tabling of the bill on Monday in the face of a hostile opposition even though the draft legislation was listed for the day's business of the Lok Saha.
"Yes, Menon met us. We have not changed our mind and will continue strongly opposing the bill in its present form," Ahluwalia told IANS after the meeting with the NSA.
"The first nuclear plant in India was started in 1960 and why is the government rushing to pass it so hastily?" Ahluwalia said, adding that the government "was not speaking its mind clearly".
Menon's meeting with BJP leaders comes a day after he briefed some Congress MPs about the provisions of the bill.