Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that a decision on going to the IAEA would come “very soon” triggered a flurry of political activity in New Delhi on Monday. The Left brought forward several hours a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and there was speculation that withdrawal of support might come even before the PM is back.
Smaller Left parties were pushing for an instant parting of ways, but all CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said was, “Wait for tomorrow’s meeting.” Left leaders will meet at 11.30 am — not 4 pm as scheduled earlier — to discuss the situation.
“We will take a decision very soon,” the PM said about approaching the IAEA for an India-specific safeguards agreement. “As far as the precise date (goes)..., I would not like to say it when we are abroad,” he told reporters on board the flight to Japan.
The PM will meet world leaders including President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the G8 summit. “I will tell him (Bush) what I have always told him. That we remain committed to civilian nuclear cooperation,” he said of his meeting with Bush, scheduled for Wednesday. “It has been my effort, and it will be my effort to push for civilian nuclear cooperation.”
He added that once the IAEA was done with the safeguards agreement, “the process will move very fast”.
Back home, the Left parties reacted almost immediately. “By making this statement, the PM has put the entire democratic process in a ridiculous position. The Left now has to act and withdraw,” CPI national secretary D. Raja said.
Off the record, Left leaders began to say they may not ultimately wait for the PM’s return on July 9 to withdraw support. President Pratibha Patil will return to New Delhi from Maharashtra on Tuesday. “We will seek time to meet her,” a senior CPM politburo member said.
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, argued a different line. He said nothing in the PM’s statement contradicted the letter he had written to Left leaders earlier in the day, informing them of the next UPA-Left panel meeting on July 10.
“There is no contradiction,” Mukherjee told Hindustan Times. “The PM has not given any date, and has merely stated that the government will soon go to the IAEA. The UPA-Left panel was constituted by the UPA chairperson and it was decided that the findings of the committee will be taken into consideration while operationalising the deal.
The UPA-Left panel had on June 25 completed all deliberations and decided that the next meeting will finalise the findings of the committee,” he said, adding that he had called a meeting of the panel for this purpose.
In his letter to the general secretaries of the four Left parties — Prakash Karat of CPM, AB Bardhan of CPI, Debabrata Biswas of Forward Bloc and T.J. Chandrachoodan of RSP, Mukherjee said: “We are now ready with the draft report for consideration of the committee. So a meeting to consider the draft is being scheduled for 1600 hours on July 10, 2008. Kindly make it possible to attend. Early submission of the report for consideration will enable the UPA government to take into account the committee’s findings.”