Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accompanied External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had a breakfast meeting with CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat in the Capital on Tuesday, but the hour-long discussions failed to break the logjam on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
<b1>The first indication of this came shortly after the meeting when the PM’s Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru read out a terse statement: “Karat and the Prime Minister reiterated that efforts would be made to sort out the issues.”
Without spelling them out, he said some points regarding the agreement were discussed at the meeting which was also attended by National Security Advisor MK Narayanan.
But after Karat sounded out some party colleagues and Left allies, including CPI leader AB Bardhan, about the deliberations, the CPM Politburo issued a sharp statement renewing its demand that the Government desist from proceeding with the deal. It said the PM’s statement in Parliament did not address the Left’s concerns.
The Politburo again questioned the requirement of the annual “good conduct certificate” from the US President, asking what happens if the US Congress rejects it “on issues ranging from Iran to anything that may come up in the future.”
Apprehensions over 'Hyde Act'
Apprehensions over the Hyde Act were also raised.Although the Left is unlikely to withdraw support to the government over the issue, its leaders indicated on Tuesday that they would have to "redefine" their relationship with the government as the situation had become "irreconcilable" and "untenable". It is possible that the four Left parties would opt out of the UPA-Left coordination committee and extend only issue-based support to the government.
A decision on their strategy would be taken after consultations within and between the Left parties within this week.
During his meeting with the PM, Karat reiterated that the Government should not proceed with the last three stages before the deal is operationalised — reaching agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group and its ratification by the US Congress. According to Mukherjee, until these three stages are cleared — which is a time consuming process, the deal in any case cannot be operationalised.
The PM told Karat that all the Left's concerns with regard to the 123 Agreement had been addressed. But Karat disagreed, saying he would share the PM's views with his party's Politburo. "We will convey our stand to the government after the Politburo meeting. The Politburo would take the decision,'' he told the Hindustan Times.
Meanwhile, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party meeting on Tuesday, congratulated the PM on the deal, saying that it fulfills all the assurances he gave in Parliament. In an oblique reference to the Left, she said: "We are a democracy and differences in views are inevitable but informed debate and discussion are the answer." She also asked her MPs to communicate to the people, the background to the agreement and the benefits it will bring.
A senior Left leader however said the deal has "capped" all the problems the UPA and the communists have been trying to resolve for three-and-a-half years. "The differences are irreconcilable. But why should we bring down the government on this issue? How many people in India know or understand the deal. There are other economic issues to talk about. But the nuclear deal has capped all the problems we have been having with them (the government)," he said. He, however, said that the Left would not go with the BJP in asking for a vote on the issue.