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The signals that emerged from the Samajwadi Party-led United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) on Tuesday did not bode well for the Congress’s reported fallback plan to muster numbers in the Lok Sabha if it goes ahead with the nuclear deal without the Left’s support.
On the eve of the crucial UPA-Left meeting over the issue, it was evident that the government’s reported proposal to approach atomic watchdog IAEA for a safeguards agreement has run into a serious political logjam. This was clear also from the sense the Congress leadership got in its talks with the UPA constituents.
After meeting Sonia Gandhi, DMK’s TR Baalu said elections weren’t imminent as something will emerge from the ongoing dialogue with the Left. He said the UPA-Left ties should be maintained. “Things should be sorted out amicably,’’ he said.
In the UNPA-Left interaction, however, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu’s emissary and UNPA coordinator Rammohan Rao conveyed to CPM’s Prakash Karat and other Left functionaries that his leader was steadfast in his opposition to the deal. Rao arrived in Delhi after a telephonic conversation between Naidu and Karat on Monday.
Even as the SP persisted with its ambivalence on the issue, the final word from the UNPA, which also includes the anti-deal INLD, the AGP and Babulal Marandi’s Jharkhand Vikas Party, will emerge after its meeting in Delhi on July 3.
By that time, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s confidante Amar Singh would also have returned from his foreign tour.
The SP has 39 MPs in the existing 542-member Lok Sabha. Among the other UNPA allies, the TDP has five, AGP 2, National Conference 2 and JVP 1. The NC may also resist the deal because of the anti-Muslim spin to it.
“We will not take any decision on the issue on our own as we are part of the UNPA and we cannot go against our allies,” Mulayam told newspersons before meeting Rao. The TDP leader also conferred with the CPI’s AB Bardhan and D Raja. Speaking to HT, Rao explained the opposition to the deal in the context of the Left and the UNPA’s objective of building a non-Congress, non-BJP third front.
That UNPA and the Left will meet again after the July 3 consultations to formalize the opposition to the deal.
For his part, Karat told Rao that the CPM would deliver the last word on the contentious issue after the June 29 meeting of its politburo. The CPI’s National Secretariat will debate the issue in the first week of next month.
A joint statement by some senior scientists like PK Iyengar added to the anti-deal build up. They strongly opposed the government going to the IAEA before debating the deal within the UPA-Left panel.
In the face of such irreconcilables, the chances of a compromise formula remain dim. But back-channel efforts, on since the past three days, are expected to intensify right into the June 25 meeting, with UPA-Left panel head Pranab Mukherjee and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury returning from their foreign tours.
“There is no compromise formula at present… Nor is one expected to be offered. Even if there is one, the basic question remains: do we have the deal or don’t?’’ said a Congress leader. However, a section in the UPA feels that Congress-Left trust deficit can be bridged through a formula in which alliance leaders assure that the government would keep the Left in the loop at every stage if it is allowed to go to the IAEA.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the government would put the ball in the Left court by renewing its appeal for approaching the IAEA.
If the response is negative, the Congress leadership would then have to decide whether — and when — to proceed in defiance of the Left. But its decision would have to be tempered by the allies’ apprehensions of early polls and the reduced chances of getting the SP and other smaller formations to offset the loss of support from the 61-member Left parties a section in the Congress was hoping for.
“It is a catch-22 situation. I don’t think the government wants to go for the deal at the cost of elections. At the same time, the price of losing credibility internationally is very serious,” said a leader. And even if there is a formal parting of ways, the Congress-led UPA can “roll the dice” of when to have the elections, unless the Left and the BJP join hands in voting it out in the Lok Sabha.