IAEA fiasco: UPA says it can face Parliament
Coming under attack from the opposition and its estranged Left allies over the flip-flop on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) India-specific safeguards pact, the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) says it is ready to face parliament although it is still uncertain about winning a majority.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government was severely criticised for approaching the IAEA board of governors on Wednesday to finalise the India-specific safeguards pact, a day after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced that the step would be taken only after winning the floor test in the Lok Sabha.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed it a "midnight deceit", the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties, which pulled out their support of the government over the India-US civilian nuclear deal Wednesday, said it was "expected".
The Communists alleged that there was a "communication gap" and "contradiction" between the prime minister and the external affairs minister.
"It (the government's move to approach the IAEA) is shocking. It is a betrayal to not just the Left parties but the country and the people. It is a sad state of affairs. The prime minister has to answer," CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat told reporters here.
"The UPA has cheated the nation once again. They have lost majority as the Left has withdrawn. It is a constitutional mandate that to take the deal further they should go for a trust vote," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
"The Congress and the prime minister are treating it as a private agreement and deal. They are tackling it like a family affair. There is no constitutional propriety in it. They are not taking parliament and country into confidence," Rudy alleged.
However, the ruling Congress justified the move, saying there was nothing strange about the move. Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said: "This is just an extension of what the prime minister was saying. There is a fine distinction between circulation and ratification (of the draft). As far as the latter is concerned, the government is absolutely committed to what the external affairs minister has said."
The four Left parties also took strong exception to the government's argument that the IAEA safeguards pact was a "classified pact" and that it could not be made available to the Communists, who were members of the UPA-Left nuclear committee.
Mukherjee has written a letter to Communists, who had alleged that the government had hidden the text of the pact from them, that the government could not share as it was a classified document. "Before the government released it today (Thursday) it was available on the US website. This is the plight of the country," Karat said.
The communist leader also added that the Left would "fight every step to stop this deal and make it impossible for the government to go ahead with the deal".
However, the government claims things were fine with it. According to government sources, the UPA was assured of support by 280 MPs - eight more than the magical number 272 to prove majority in the Lok Sabha.
Manmohan Singh, who returned from Japan where he met US President George Bush, is expected to meet President Pratibha Patil on Thursday evening. He is likely to convey that he would face Parliament to prove majority for his coalition government.