'No hidden deal, we could have backed earlier'
If the prime minister had approached the Samajwadi Party (SP), it could have backed the nuclear deal much earlier, party leader Amar Singh said in the Capital while denying any “hidden deal” with the government in return for its support.
“There was no need for the prime minister to go to parliament on the issue of the nuclear deal. If he could have approached us and other political parties and briefed us on the nuclear deal, we could have supported it much before,” Amar Singh told IANS when asked what made the SP change its mind.
“We are fully satisfied after (former president APJ Abdul Kalam) told us the deal was in national interest,” a beaming Singh remarked late Friday night. He has played a stellar role in persuading his party - which has 39 MPs in the Lok Sabha - to rescue the deal which was held hostage by the Left parties.
In a subtle critique of the Manmohan Singh government's failure to forge political consensus over the nuclear deal earlier, Amar Singh said the government paid too much attention to the Left parties and kept other important parties like SP out of the loop over the nuclear deal.
“There is no deal within the deal. We have acted solely in national interest,” the SP leader said. He also vehemently repudiated speculation about the SP bargaining for some plum ministries with the government in return for its support.
“There is no question of our participating in the government towards the end of its term. We have no selfish interest in supporting this deal,” Singh insisted to IANS.
Singh, however, underlined that his party will continue to put pressure on the government on the issue of price rise which is severely hurting the common man.
The media-savvy SP general secretary, known for his connections across the political spectrum and corporate bigwigs, trashed Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati's attempt to give a Muslim spin to the nuclear deal.
“This is no Hindu or Muslim deal. This is a national deal and it's in national interest,” Singh said. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati had claimed that the nuclear deal would spark a backlash from Muslims due to American policies towards countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Singh was, however, ambivalent when asked whether the present understanding between the Congress and the SP would translate into an electoral understanding.
The SP leader was touchy when asked about the new bonhomie between his party and the Congress who were seen as sworn rivals with a history of bitter relations.
“When Prakash Karat goes to meet Sonia Gandhi, it's called 'suhaag raat' (wedding night), but when we go to meet Sonia Gandhi, it's called 'balaatkaar' (rape),” Singh said testily when asked about the meeting between SP chief Mulayam Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday.
The crucial meeting turned out to be a clincher with the SP professing support to the government over the nuclear deal if the Left lives up to its threat of withdrawing support from the ruling coalition.