Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that he has delivered on the assurances made in Parliament on the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. Now, it’s the turn of the Left parties to keep their word. “They [the Left parties] said it will be all right if the PM delivers on what he has promised. I say I have delivered on my promises. Now they should be truthful and keep their part of the bargain,” he told HT. The Left has rejected the 123 Agreement, warning the government against making it operational.
The PM who isn’t given to going public with his criticism of the Left, said he felt “sorry” over their opposition to the deal that is in consonance with his assurances to them and in Parliament.
On Friday, Dr Singh told a Kolkata-based daily that his message to the Communists was that if they wanted to withdraw support on the issue, so be it
On Saturday, he toned down his comments interpreted as a veritable challenge to the Left parties, saying it was a “conditional statement”
On Friday, he had told a Kolkata-based daily that his message to the Communists was that if they wanted to withdraw support on the issue, so be it. But at a Rashtrapati Bhawan reception after the swearing in of Mohammad Hamid Ansari as the country’s 13th Vice President, there was bonhomie between the UPA and the Left leaders. Both sides were at pains to explain that the government wasn’t at risk despite wide gaps on the issue under debate. Singh too toned down his comments interpreted as a veritable challenge to the Left parties, saying it was a “conditional statement”.
What if the Left indeed picked up the gauntlet? “We’ll cross the bridge when we reach there,” said the PM. Asked whether his government was in a crisis over the nuclear deal, Singh shot back: “What crisis?”
BJP sees its chance
The BJP on Saturday asked the Left to prove their sincerity on the Indo-US nuclear deal issue by accepting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s challenge – of withdrawing support to his government.
Expressing surprise at the “sudden display of courage” by the PM, BJP deplored that he had taken such a stand on a deal which would compromise the strategic security and nuclear sovereignty of India.
“The double standards of the Left are legendary right since the days of the freedom struggle… If they feel the deal is not in the nation’s interest, they should withdraw support to the government,” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The PM wasn’t the only one to play down the face-off. “If there is a difference, it has to be acknowledged,” said CPI’s D Raja before walking up to the PM. Singh seized the opportunity to convey that channels of communication haven’t broken down with the Left. “Look, we meet all the time,” Singh told newspersons.
Meanwhile, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury stood by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s side while she, in light banter, said it was okay if the PM spoke his mind once in a while. “A reminder (is necessary),” she said, adding: “Maybe they (the Left) required that bit of exposure.” Like the PM and the Left leaders, she saw no danger to the government over the deal.
Quizzed about the PM’s remarks on withdrawal of support, Yechury drew attention to a statement made by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat. “That is the PM’s counsel. We will decide (whether or not to keep backing the government) on the basis of our counsel.”
<b1>In defence of the deal, the PM recalled the debates and the many statements he made in Parliament. He said his government has been transparent about the talks with the US, unlike the previous NDA regime that kept External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh’s dialogue with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott under wraps. “We learnt about it all from Talbott’s book,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister said his statement in Parliament on Monday would address the issue in totality. “Members can raise new concerns,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi told journalists.