M A I N   N E W S

Thank you, Mulayamji
A relieved Cong on safe wicket after SP extends support
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 4
The political wheel has come full circle. Four years ago when the UPA was formed, the Congress had discarded the Samajwadi Party (SP) and instead sought support from the Left parties to prop up the new government. Today, as relations between the Congress and the Communists hit a new low over the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Congress has been forced to seek help from its former bete noire, the SP, in its desperate effort to save its government and the deal.

After days of hectic parleys, SP leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to formally convey their support for the nuclear deal. With SP on its side, the Congress lost no time in stepping up its attack against the Left parties, clearly indicating an imminent break with the Communists.

On its part, the Left parties had earlier released a letter to external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, asking the government to explain by July 7 about its intention to proceed to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for finalising the India-specific safeguards agreement. Mukherjee is likely to respond to the letter before the deadline expires, but UPA sources said the government was unlikely to disclose as to when it planned to approach the IAEA though it was pushing ahead with the deal.

The Congress abandoned its earlier apologetic stance and hit back at the Left parties, accusing them of “lacking in courtesy” for disclosing the contents of their letter even before it had reached Mukherjee. The party was equally aggressive in its defence of the nuclear deal, which, it insisted, was in national interest, adding emphatically that the Congress stood fully behind the government on the issue.

“It is not appropriate to shoot off such a letter and release it to the press even before it has reached Pranab Mukherjee... it smacks of lack of courtesy. I don’t understand their desperation,” said an unusually aggressive Congress spokesperson Veerappa Moily, adding that the Left parties should have raised these questions in the UPA-Left joint mechanism which was still alive. He reminded the Left leaders that they had not walked out of the coordination panel and that the two sides had agreed to meet again at their last meeting.

While the Left was at the receiving end, the Congress was all praise for the SP with Moily describing it as a responsible and secular party.

This new-found friendship between the Congress and the SP was also evident when its leaders first had a 30-minute meeting with the Prime Minister where they pledged their support for the deal and followed it up with a meeting with Sonia Gandhi at her residence where they reiterated the same. Mulayam Singh Yadav was meeting Sonia Gandhi after five years.

Emerging from their meeting with the PM, the SP leaders said they were convinced that the nuclear deal was in national interest after former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam had explained the benefits of this agreement to them. Amar Singh, however, denied striking any deal with the PM or bargaining for any Cabinet post.



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