123: War of words cools off
New Delhi, August 11
Maintaining that the differences over the nuclear deal are not insurmountable, the Prime Minister today said his statement in Parliament on Monday will address all concerns of Left parties and was confident that he will be able to convince them.
Having repeatedly said the government will have to pay a heavy political price for going ahead with the nuclear agreement, the Marxists today said their opposition to the deal should not be linked to the withdrawal of support to the government.
As it happens, the Left has sought a debate in Parliament on this issue under rules which do not require a vote. Talking to mediapersons after the swearing-in ceremony of the new Vice-President Hamid Ansari at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Manmohan Singh said, ”I will address all their concerns in my statement and I am pretty confident about convincing the Left parties.”
He parried all questions about his ultimatum to the Left parties and laughed off queries about the possibility of a mid-term election. “Where’s the question of a mid term? Why are you talking about it?” he said smiling, adding that all problems with the Left will be resolved through discussions. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, too, ruled out the possibility of a mid-term poll, adding emphatically that there was no danger to the government.
This was a distinct climb down from the tough posture he adopted yesterday when he told a Kolkata-based newspaper, “It is an honourable deal, the Cabinet has approved it, we cannot go back on it. I told them to do whatever they want to do, if they want to withdraw support, so be it.”
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, who was also present at the function, clarified that the Left parties had never spoken of withdrawing support to the UPA government, adding that the PM’s suggestion to that effect was “his counsel”. “We will decide our own course of action,” he added.
The conciliatory noises by both sides, however, has not narrowed differences between the UPA and the Left parties as far as the Indo-US nuclear deal is concerned. The Prime Minister, who has already told the Marxists that the 123 Agreement could not be negotiated afresh, stood his ground today, stating emphatically that the nuclear deal is already “signed and sealed.”
Dr Singh said the Left parties had persistently told him that the nuclear deal be negotiated on the basis of his March and July statements in Parliament and that’s exactly what had been done. “I have delivered on those promises,” he declared.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s assurance, Yechury said the Prime Minister genuinely believes that all nine points raised by them had been accommodated in the final text but said they continue to have apprehensions about it.
“We were given to understand that this agreement will supersede the US national law but a close reading of the 123 agreement shows that is not the case,” he said, adding that the Left parties will articulate their concerns during the debate in Parliament.