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Tactical shift: Karat hails Manmohan

Left goes soft on the PM before crucial Politburo meet on November 11-12, reports Sutirtho Patranobis.
Hindustan Times | By Sutirtho Patranobis, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 01, 2007 02:57 AM IST

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, in an interview to a Kolkata-based daily, praised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, calling him a person with “unquestioned integrity”.

There could be varied, even differing, interpretations of Karat’s comments on the PM at a juncture when the Left is refusing to yield any quarter to the government on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal.

The deference the Marxist leader has shown for Singh will ensure that the sixth round of the Left-UPA dialogue on November 16 to break the logjam on the deal will be held in a better climate. Before that, the CPM politburo will take stock of the situation on November 11-12, when the PM will be touring the Russian Federation.

“Our differing view on the agreement does not mean that we do not have respect for the Prime Minister. His integrity is unquestioned,” Karat said in the interview to The Telegraph. This does not, however, mark any shift in the Left’s stand against the deal and its rejection of the Government's plea that it be allowed to start talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with the promise that the Communists will be kept informed of what transpires in the dialogue with the nuclear watchdog.

A CPM leader said, "If you read the text of the interview, it would become clear that the CPM has not backtracked on the deal. Our position is clear: do not initiate talks with the IAEA because that would mean operationalising the deal."

By using the same newspaper in which Singh had dared the Left to withdraw support, Karat has attempted to shine in contrast as a more reasonable partner. But this could be his way of correcting the growing perception that the Communists were bullying the PM.

Karat's comments on how coalition politics around the world prevented leaders from carrying out agenda on which there was no consensus are a rejoinder to the BJP's statements seeking to paint Singh as a weak PM. "This situation (of leaders not having their way) is well understood in coalition politics around the world," he said.

As politicians do nothing without purpose, it would also be reasonable to infer that Karat, through his unqualified endorsement of the PM and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's no-early polls stance at HT's Leadership Summit, has sought to avoid being painted the de-stabilizer in the event of the deal cutting short the UPA regime's life.

In this context, his recent meetings with UPA allies such as the DMK gain relevance. Without them on board, the Congress cannot secure the Cabinet resolution for dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

Left sources said Karat's statements also indicate that there was no personal battle between him and Singh. “Some sections of the media were portraying the controversy to have become an ego battle between the two. His interview clearly makes the point that the debate is hinged purely on varying approaches to the deal,” sources said.

The CPI too said that the party held the PM in “high esteem” despite differences on the nuclear deal and other issues.

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