Close encounters of the third kind
The United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) meeting has ended with more things left unsaid than said. But this was not unexpected in a season where every party is keeping its powder dry as far as electorally productive relationships go. Despite the UNPA’s attempts to project a united front, it is clear that all its constituents have different compulsions and that the formation is hanging by a thread.
From the pronouncements of the UNPA’s most significant constituent, the Samajwadi Party, it is clear that it does not have any major differences with the UPA on the nuclear deal over which the Left has threatened to withdraw from the government. Though the SP leaders have not articulated it in so many words, they have made it clear that going with the BJP is not an option. Communalism, they have said, is a bigger threat than the nuclear deal.
While they may call for a debate on the deal and an impartial body to examine further doubts, they have acknowledged that the Prime minister has cleared their doubts so far. The assurance from the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav that it will not go against the national interest also suggests that it is in accordance with the UPA on the deal. For the moment, however, the SP does not want to be seen as deserting the UNPA and will continue to up the ante on the price for its support.
Whether the UPA is willing to pay the price or not remains to be seen, but it is likely that it will show maximum accommodation to see such big-ticket policy items like the N-deal through. The UNPA is also holding back to see whether the Left will carry out its umpteenth threat to withdraw support. Given the rate at which the Left has been threatening to go its own way, many feel that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. But with the UNPA meet setting the ball rolling in making and breaking electoral alliances, we can expect a kaleidoscope of activity in the coming weeks.