In a bid to hold its flanks together on the Indo-US nuclear deal ahead of a House debate on December 18, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi called a meeting of the UPA floor leaders to keep the constituents of the coalition in the loop and signal a united stand on an issue opposed by the Left parties, its outside supporters, and the Opposition BJP.
Only Lok Janshakti leader Ram Vilas Paswan, IUML leader E Ahmad and PMK's Ramadoss could come for the meeting. RJD's Lalu Yadav was in Patna but his party was represented by DP Yadav. The DMK's TR Baalu could not reach the Capital on time but his colleague Krishnaswamy attended the meeting where Sonia, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi and Sonia's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel were present. NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar could not come because he was caught up in his birthday celebrations on Tuesday.
Even though some of the key leaders could not come for the meeting, the groundwork to get the allies on board was done on Monday by Mukherjee. The veteran leader spoke to Tamil Nadu chief minister and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi to seek his party's endorsement on the issue. Similar calls were made to other leaders of the constituent parties. On her part, Sonia also called a Congress Working Committee on Tuesday to get Mukherjee to brief her party colleagues on the deal that would be debated in Parliament and outside.
The move to keep the allies in the picture is also meant to scuttle the BJP's reported plan to show up the differences between the UPA and the Left parties on the nuclear deal issue.
The Opposition party has given notice for a debate on the Indo-US deal for a discussion under Rule 184 that entails a head count. It would be a moral defeat for the Treasury if it fails to muster the numbers to reject the motion, if it is admitted by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.
Although Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi claimed that the Government was ready to discuss the matter under any rule and was prepared to face the motion, it would not like such a discussion.
As fallback plan, the BJP has also given notice under Rule 193 that calls for a general debate in the Lower House. In the Rajya Sabha, the option is to go for a general debate or seek clarifications on the minister's statement he made in the Upper House on Tuesday.
However, the Prime Minister is unlikely to intervene during the debate which will be handled by Mukherjee. The Government also rejected BJP's suggestion that the Government take the "sense" of the House and come out with a resolution. This is because, it said, the issue has been debated by the two Houses earlier in which the Government had said that its response to the deal would be guided by the March 2 and July 18 joint statements and the prime minister's August 17 statement in Parliament.
Email Saroj Nagi: snagi @hindustantimes.com