Leader of Opposition LK Advani’s statement from Hyderabad on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal may have prompted analysts and BJP leaders alike to believe he signaled a course correction following differences among the BJP leaders.
But, denying he attempted to change the BJP’s approach, Advani has said he had a limited purpose in mind when he made that statement to show a distinction between the approaches of the BJP and the Left. He had also made a new suggestion — an amendment to the Indian Atomic Act to counter the Hyde Act.
Advani told HT that he would clarify the BJP’s position when he addressed the party’s parliamentary group on Thursday, particularly to clear the air over his statement two days ago that his party had no objection to the 123 Agreement if the government amended the Indian Atomic Energy Act.
Advani discussed the issue with BJP leaders Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. Sinha and Shourie were not happy with the media interpretation of Advani’s statement.
Shourie explained to Advani that the implications of the India-specific Hyde Act were “camouflaged” in the 123 pact. On August 12, Advani had told U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman that the party's major objection was to the Hyde Act and not to the agreement.
Advani said on Wednesday, “The BJP's opposition to the deal is unlike that of the Left, which is against any dealing with the US. We do not say that. We want two things. One, India's right to conduct further nuclear tests must not be curbed. Two, no foreign country should get any room to dictate to us what is our strategic interest. The Hyde Act says a lot.”
Advani said, “Unlike the Left, the BJP does not oppose a nuke deal with the US per se. But the common people, particularly our supporters, would not have been able to understand our party's stand since our opposition is related to specifics whereas the Left is opposed to the whole thing.”
Advani said, “We would have had a difficult time later to explain to the common people that we and the Left did not have the same reasons for opposing the deal in the event of the government going out of office and the elections taking place as a result.”
VK Malhotra and Sushma Swaraj, BJP leaders in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, held that Advani had only said “what we have been saying in Parliament and outside — that the deal needs to be re-negotiated. We are not opposing the deal out of anti-Americanism.” Sinha said Advani had made a new suggestion but saw no contradiction in Advani’s view and that of the party stated immediately after the text of the 123 agreement was made public. On August 31, the party’s core group is scheduled to meet and the deal is likely to dominate the session.