Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday laid to rest speculation about the country heading towards an early election due to the UPA's differences with Left partners over the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Singh said he had not given up hope that "reason and common sense" will change the perception of the Left parties towards the deal but made it clear that he would not put the government at stake if it did not.
"If the deal does not come through, it will be disappointing… But in life, one has to live with certain disappointments and move on to the next… …We have a lot of unfinished business to complete," Singh declared at the launch of the Fifth Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday.
"Ours is not a one-issue government," the Prime Minister emphasised in a lively interactive session that saw him deftly handling knotty questions and speaking his mind. This is the first time that the Congress' top leadership has hinted at the possibility of not pushing the deal in the face of the Left's opposition while de-linking the government's fate from that of the 123 agreement.
The statements by the PM and Sonia came in the wake of reports that UPA partners such as the RJD, DMK and the NCP found the time inopportune for polls and were not sure, like many in the Congress, whether early elections were actually the solution, what with the prospects of the 15th Lok Sabha being driven more by regional parties like the BSP.
Sonia Gandhi, who spoke immediately after the Prime Minister, also flagged the UPA's resolve to completing the full term and explained: Why?
"When we won in 2004, we made certain commitments and it is only fair that we fulfil those commitments," she reassured the gathering made up of a cross-section of political leaders, corporate honchos, diplomats, technocrats and dignitaries from abroad.
She said the government was not going in for early elections. "We will do all we can and see that it (government) works," Sonia said. The UPA chairperson also played the Left's advocate when she rejected insinuations that the Communists were acting at China's behest in opposing the deal.
"I don't think that the Left is being unreasonable. It has a certain ideology, a certain view-point. They are merely stating their views," she said. Sonia also clarified that she was misunderstood when her "'enemies of development" statement at a public meeting in Haryana was interpreted to imply the Left with reference to the nuclear deal.
She suggested it just wasn't her style to go public against a coalition supporter. And it certainly wasn't in line with the
coalition dharma as she knew it. "We are not looking for confrontation… The dharma of coalition is to work together, try and understand and accommodate each other's view," said Sonia, who played a key role in sewing up the UPA and has the tricky job of keeping it intact to avoid the charge of not being able to manage a joint family in this era of coalition politics.
For his part, the prime minister let it be known that his willingness to see the nuclear deal go down rather than the government was not because the deal was not good enough. "What we have done with the United States, it is an honourable deal, it is good for India and it is good for the world. But we are in the realm of politics and within our coalition, there are differing perceptions," he said as he referred to attempts to reconcile the differences.