Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Left out, N-deal in

India’s ruling coalition was Tuesday reduced to a minority with the Left withdrawing its support, ending four years of an often uneasy relationship that ended in divorce over differences on the India-US nuclear deal. But the Samajwadi Party quickly stepped in to fill the gap and announced support for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As the Samajwadi Party announced in the Indian capital that all its 39 Lok Sabha MPs would back the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) on the nuclear deal and vote for the government in a trust vote, a confident Manmohan Singh told journalists in Japan on the sidelines of the G8 summit: “Left pulling out will not affect the stability of the government.”
That stability would be put to the test soon. As the day of hectic political activity drew to a close, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced after talking to Manmohan Singh over telephone that the government would seek a trust vote during the parliament session starting Aug 11. But political sources said a special Lok Sabha session could be held earlier.
The months of high-voltage drama ended at the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) headquarters here where its general secretary Prakash Karat said the time had come for the Left to end their backing after Manmohan Singh’s public decision to approach the IAEA “very soon” to take ahead the civilian nuclear deal.
“As you are aware, the Left parties had decided that if the government goes to the IAEA Board of Governors, they will withdraw support,” Karat said, reading out a letter sent 90 minutes earlier to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. “In view of the prime minister’s announcement (on his way to Japan), that time has come.”
Mukherjee, the government’s chief interlocutor with the Left over the nuclear deal, was quick to respond.
Refuting the Left’s allegation that the government refused to share the IAEA safeguards pact text with them, Mukherjee wrote to Karat and said it was a confidential record and that the Communists should have joined the government to get access to it.
The announcement of the Left withdrawal – although widely expected – triggered a political furore. Karat said leaders of the CPI-M, Communist Party of India (CPI), Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Forward Bloc would meet President Pratibha Patil Wednesday noon to formally submit a letter withdrawing their legislative support to the Congress-led UPA government.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) immediately held a meeting of its leaders at the house of its prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani and asked the UPA government to seek a vote of confidence.
Foe-turned-friend Samajwadi Party was the saviour of the day. Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav announced his party’s support to the ruling coalition but clarified that it would not join the government.
“We welcome the nuclear deal and back Manmohan Singh’s decision to go ahead to the IAEA for the next step in the deal,” he told reporters here. “If there is a vote in parliament, we will support the prime minister and the nuclear deal.”
Unfortunately, there were chinks in the Samajwadi Party ranks too. Of its 39 MPs, only 29 attended the parliamentary party meeting. Mulayam Singh covered up with a brave “we are one and we unanimously support the nuclear deal and the government”. But the murmurs of discontent were audible.
Meanwhile, according to an NDTV report, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has announced that the government would seek vote of confidence before August 11.
Mukherjee said that UPA government won’t proceed to IAEA until it wins trust vote.

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