The Congress on Wednesday denied that the Indo-US civil nuclear deal has been put on hold, the denial comes two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told US president George Bush about the difficulties in operationalising it and five days after Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi talked about it at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit. It also dismissed speculation that the Prime Minister was contemplating resigning on the issue.
"The deal has not been put in the cold storage. I am denying that the deal has been put on the hold. It is very much in the offing," said Dr Shakeel Ahmed, Union Minister and newly appointed AICC spokesman cutting questions that Singh and Sonia had put the deal on the backburner.
In his view, the deal has not been shelved because the talks to convince the Left parties about its benefits were still on, a point made by other AICC leaders as well, who without going into the time frame, however, claimed that only the pause button has been pressed. The argument: if the deal was not alive, the UPA-Left talks would not be taking place. The next meeting of the UPA-Left panel is slated on October 22 and if required, there would be further meetings in this regard, Ahmed said.
The spokesman substantiated his claim that the deal was alive by quoting IAEA chief Mohammad ElBaradei and other officials as saying that there is no time frame to it.
If the PM spoke to Bush about the difficulties on the deal, "it does not mean that it has been put on hold or put off," he said. Allies like the DMK, the RJD or the NCP were on board on the issue but if they had any concerns, the government was duty-bound to address them.
"In a coalition, it is the duty of the government to address the concerns of the alliance partners and that is what we are doing," he said, rejecting that the UPA is a lame duck government.
Notwithstanding this, the party is caught in a piquant situation. After hardselling the deal as a "bijli-pani" issue that is imperative for the country and its development, it has now to signal that it did not sacrifice the country’s interests at the Left’s alter. "If there is no government, there can be no nuclear deal. But so long as the government is there, we can say that there is hope that we can persuade the Left about it," said a Congressman.