Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s firmness and resolve on going ahead with the Indo-US nuclear cooperation agreement appear to have left the Congress and the UPA with no choice but to fall in line on the issue and take the Left head-on if need be. The evidence of the Left mentally preparing itself to meet such an eventuality is there in the latest write up by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat in the party mouthpiece ‘People’s Democracy’ in which he blames the Prime Minister for the present crisis.
Karat, along with some other Left leaders, has made several harsh public statements and seems to be in a great hurry to end his party’s relationship with the Congress. His party first tried to bring an Muslim angle into the deal and give it a communal colour. When this backfired and there were protests from the Samajwadi Party, the CPM attempted to play down the issue. In any case, the deal is country-specific and not community-specific as a section of the media, as also some of the parties, have been trying to project it.
There is nothing in the deal that hurts the Muslims or any other community. There is no way a deal, construed to be in the interests of the country, can be seen as inimical to the interests of Muslims. Such an approach amounts to bad politics apart from being anti-national.
Coming back to Karat, he seems to be leading his party towards isolation by taking such a rigid stand. He may get the required support from the politburo on the subject, but the political consequences for the CPM are certainly going to be negative. The CPM seems to be taking a line which may eventually push it into the company of certain regional parties.
Obviously, the country cannot afford to allow the regional parties, which consider regional interests over national interests on several issues, to dictate terms on important matters. By parting company with the UPA, the Left in general, and the CPM in particular, will prove to be big losers, especially come the elections. The Congress will certainly be better off if it wholeheartedly supports the Prime Minister on this issue. It should go to the polls with a pragmatic team of advisers to assist its president Sonia Gandhi instead of the current lot, who seem to have run out of both steam and ideas. Planting cronies in the states will not yield electoral dividends.
If the Congress dithers on changing its ‘A’ team and strategy, by blaming it on the political crisis, it may help the CPM have the last laugh, along with its main adversary, the BJP, which is gearing up for the polls. The Congress president certainly will be able to deliver more effectively with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by her side if she goes in for a total overhaul of her core team and brings in leaders with proven experience and ability. They could also help groom Rahul Gandhi in the long run.
Even as the CPM hits out at the Prime Minister for his unflinching support for the deal, the BJP seems to be in a great hurry to get to power. It is surprising that the saffron party is making no pretensions about this desire and has announced a list of half-a-dozen nominees for the Parliamentary polls expected to be held in the winter. The idea was apparently to push LK Advani as the first off the blocks by naming him the candidate from Gandhinagar, the constituency he has represented with just a single interruption in 1996, where he will be totally dependent on Narendra Modi to get re-elected. Time will tell whether Advani wishes to contest only from Gandhinagar or also from another place, perhaps in Madhya Pradesh, to secure his entry into the Lok Sabha.
It is also not clear why Ananth Kumar, his most trusted aide and the only one from amongst the younger lot of leaders to be a part of the Lok Sabha the last three times, has not been included in the first list. He should certainly have been there. It has also not been spelt out whether some other “mass leaders” like M Venkaiah Naidu, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj will be contesting the polls or if they will continue to stay in the safe confines of the Rajya Sabha.
What was most surprising was that no attempt was made to even create a pretence that if Atal Behari Vajpayee wanted to contest from Lucknow or anywhere else, he would be the party’s obvious choice. No news, similarly, on the fate of Murali Manohar Joshi. The fact that the BJP has not projected any prominent Brahmin or Vaishya in its first list makes its campaign launch a little weak, given that these two communities were its backbone during the Vajpayee days.
The political situation continues to be fluid and will remain so, probably till next weekend. By then, the stands of various parties on the nuclear deal that is at the epicenter of the current crisis may become clearer. The Congress and the UPA have no choice but to go with the Prime Minister. Between us.