The UPA and Left came closer to breaking point on Sunday over the India-US civil nuclear deal. The CPM politburo formally announced that the party would "withdraw support to the UPA government in concert with the Left parties" if the government went ahead with the "harmful" 123 agreement. It also lashed out at the Congress "leadership" — rather than just Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as it has done so far — for its "insistence on going ahead with the nuclear deal".
<b1>Though the Left has been clearly signaling a parting of ways, the politburo’s is the first public statement in four years by the UPA’s outside supporters on imminent withdrawal of support. It is also their first direct attack on the Congress "leadership", without mentioning Sonia Gandhi by name.
In obliquely targeting Sonia, sources said, the Left seemed to shut out any possible mediation by her unlike the time when her intervention helped keep PSU disinvesments in abeyance. This time, the Congress and its allies are backing the deal while asserting they also want the Left on board.
On Sunday, the politburo ratified CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s stand on the deal and authorised him to finalise the timing of withdrawal with other Left leaders.
Karat has maintained that the government’s renewed bid to go to the IAEA board of governors is a "flagrant violation" of the November 16 2007 understanding that there will be no movement on the deal pending clearance by the UPA-Left panel. The politburo reportedly also decided that the Left should vote against the Congress-led UPA if it is asked to prove its majority in the Lok Sabha — a demand raised by the BJP.
“The UPA was formed to keep the communal forces at bay. By taking such a step and the political consequences thereafter, that purpose will be undermined,” Karat said, adding that the present political crisis is of the Congress’s making and would help the BJP. "It is unfortunate that …when the government should be gearing up to….to tackle inflation and price rise, the PM and the Congress leadership are more concerned about fulfilling their commitment to President Bush to operationalise the nuclear deal," he said.
Reacting strongly to the CPM’s statement, AICC spokesperson Manish Tiwari told the Hindustan Times: “The CPM's perception that the deal is not in national interest is absolutely erroneous.” He refuted the Left charge that the deal does not enjoy majority support in Parliament, saying, “The Congress’s endeavour has been to carry along all allies, but the government has been elected to put India first and that is the party's position. Whosoever supports the UPA in this will be supporting national interest."
Meanwhile, the Congress’s crisis managers are working overtime on a two-pronged strategy to make up for the shortfall in numbers if the 59-member Left withdraws support. This includes wooing parties like the 39-member SP, the RLD and even the TRS while persuading others — including those in the NDA camp and perhaps also the 17-member BSP — to abstain so as to bring down the half-way mark from 272 in the 542-member House. Without the Left, the UPA’s tally stands at 223. “Until we have the numbers, there may be no forward movement on the deal,” said a source.
Earlier on Sunday, the PM, Sonia and Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee, AK Antony and Prithviraj Chavan met in the backdrop of the J&K developments and deal faceoff.
Hectic activity is expected after SP leader Amar Singh's arrival from abroad on Monday and the July 3 UNPA meeting after which Mulayam Singh Yadav will spell out his stand.
After July 3, the CWC will meet. So will the CPM, CPI, RSP and FB leaders to firm up their opposition to the deal. But RJD’s Lalu Yadav told a TV channel: "Elections will be held on the due date. The government will not fall and the deal will also go through."