The Left will not withdraw support to the UPA government until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns on July 9 after attending the G-8 summit in Japan, a top Left leader told Hindustan Times on Wednesday even as the Samajwadi Party moved closer to supporting the UPA.
<b1>"Communalism is a bigger threat that the nuclear deal," SP general secretary Amar Singh said a day ahead of the crucial UNPA meeting to discuss the issue, persisting with the tightrope strategy on the question of his party’s possible support to the UPA government. Not merely stopping there, the SP leader took a swipe at the Left by asserting that the Left, BJP and BSP had the same view on the Manmohan Singh government’s approach to the nuclear deal.
After being briefed by National Security Adviser MK Narayanan on the benefits of the nuclear deal at an undisclosed location in the Capital, Amar Singh put up a demand for a public clarification from the prime minister on certain issues relating to the deal. "Transparency and clarity on such issues is important for dispelling doubts and unless the prime minister takes steps in that direction, it will not be possible for the SP to support the nuclear deal,” he said. However, the SP is more worried about intentions of communal forces to turn Uttar Pradesh into a laboratory of Hindu extremism. “We do not want innocent Muslims to be killed like in Gujarat, post-Godhra,” he said.
Within hours of Amar Singh’s demand, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a detailed statement, which is expected to pave the way for SP’s support. It recalled the six key concerns the SP leader had raised and Narayanan’s point-by-point response.
The clarifications sought ranged from fears that India would have to compromise on sovereignty of its nuclear programme and foreign policy to the possible impact on relations with Iran. Narayanan, who has just returned from Iran, assured the SP leader that "no outside influence or pressure" could force India to deviate from its relations with Iran that were time-honoured and civilizational in nature.
On the impact of the IAEA agreement, the PMO insisted India would retain the right till the very end before putting any of its reactors under safeguards.
Meanwhile, a senior Left leader put to rest the speculation that the Left parties could pull out as early as July 4 - the day leaders of the four Left parties meet to discuss the present political situation and the possible timing of the pullout. The Left will ask the government to make it explicitly clear whether it is going ahead with the safeguards agreement with the IAEA, before taking any decision on withdrawal.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves for Japan, where the G8 summit is being held, on July 7 and returns on July 9. This effectively means the government will only say it is going ahead with the deal after July 9. The Left, in its meeting on July 4, will discuss the timing of withdrawing support but is unlikely to come up with a date.
On July 5, Karat and CPI general secretary AB Bardhan are scheduled to participate in a Left Front programme in Kolkata and Yechury is going abroad. With top Left leaders not here, the pullout happening before the PM's departure will not be possible, unless the government decides to announce it is going ahead.
The CPI and the Forward Bloc also have their meetings scheduled on Thursday. The two parties are likely to endorse the withdrawal threat already made public by the CPM politburo last Sunday. “How can we withdraw till they say they are going? We will be made to look like fools if the government says it is not going (to IAEA),” Bardhan said after a meeting with Karat.
The SP is trying to keep the UNPA intact as long as possible, though the diverging attitudes of its partners towards the Congress are pulling it in different directions. Responding to BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s assertion that the Asom Gana Parishad — a UNPA constituent —was in talks with the saffron party for a possible tie-up, Amar Singh asserted that interested parties were spreading such rumors and that the UNPA remained united as a rock. He also rubbished media speculations that the SP had finalised a list of three names that would take oath as cabinet ministers.