In the autumn of 2007 when the Left and the United Progressive Alliance set up the committee that again met on Tuesday amid a deepening impasse over the Indo-US nuclear deal, a weighty Cabinet Minister from Bihar had kept himself aloof from the exercise. “If they ask me to sit on the committee, I'd find an excuse to sit out,” he said.
Pressed further, the minister pointed to a framed photograph in which he stood next to President Clinton. "Had it been with (George) Bush, I would have put it in the attic," he said.
So, the Muslim spin to the deal isn’t the Left’s invention. But one expected better from the Communists, especially the Marxists, who haven’t covered themselves with glory by imparting communal colour to the pact they claim to oppose for its potential to bind India to the US’s ‘imperialistic’ foreign policy and strategic goals.
There is no empirical data to confirm CPM Politburo member MK Pandhe’s claim that the deal was opposed by an “overwhelming” majority of Muslims. The party has distanced itself from his remarks. But Pandhe’s assertions appeared inspired by Prakash Karat, who recently derided the pact as another proof of the emerging US-Israel-India axis.
The CPM leader made the charge at a seminar to mark the 60th year of the 1948 creation of Israel and the beginning of the Palestinian resistance. “Tel Aviv’s emergence as India’s second largest supplier of military equipment implies that New Delhi is sustaining Israel’s military endeavor against the Palestinian fight for a homeland,” he alleged.
What constituency was the Left seeking to woo by projecting the UPA as anti-Palestine and pro-Zionist? The Muslims, of course. And whom was it trying to warn against a joint enterprise to push the deal? The SP, indeed.
Equally significant in the obtaining logjam was the timing of these statements. The CPM brought up the Muslim angle to further destabilise UPA partners fearful of early polls and pre-empt a possible Congress-SP joint venture to save the deal and government. With UNPA allies of Mulayam Singh, who met Karat on Tuesday, coming out against the deal, the strategy has paid dividends but not without robbing the Left of its high ideological ground.
Pandhe faced the opprobrium for conjuring upfront the specter of a Muslim backlash. Karat was subtler and more discreet.
The adage of politics being a game of possibility applies to lesser practitioners, not ideologically driven, uncompromising Marxists. But wasn’t the CPM as expedient when it transcended its anti-imperialist opposition to the deal by sharing the stage with SP to vent spleen against India’s IAEA vote against Iran?