M A I N   N E W S

Floor Test
I am ready, PM tells President
Date for summoning special LS session today
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 10
While the Congress strongly countered the attack mounted against the UPA government by the Left parties for pursuing the Indo-US nuclear agreement as a minority government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told President Pratibha Patil that the ruling coalition would seek a vote of confidence as early as possible.

The date on which the Lok Sabha is to be summoned for this purpose will be communicated to the President tomorrow evening, a Rashtrapati Bhawan communique said following the Prime Minister’s meeting with Patil.

The President had sought this meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday after the Left parties submitted letters to her, withdrawing support to the UPA government.

Although July 21 or 22 are being mentioned as tentative dates for a special Parliament session, the schedule is expected to be finalised by the Cabinet only after tomorrow morning’s meeting of the UPA allies and the meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC). At the meeting they will discuss their future political strategy following the Left’s pullout.

Manmohan, who returned from the G-8 Summit in Japan this early morning, was faced with a volatile political situation as he was personally targeted by the BJP and the Left parties for the Centre’s flip-flop on the India-specific safeguards agreement to be finalised with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Yesterday, this draft agreement was circulated to the nuclear watchdog’s board of governors for approval following a “request” from the Indian government although external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee had said they would do so only after obtaining a trust vote.

The text was subsequently placed on the External Affairs Minsitry’s website this morning, while the UPA had earlier refused to show the text to the Left parties on the ground that it was a confidential document.

The party fielded chief spokesperson Veerappa Moily while the government chose science and technology minister Kapil Sibal to turn the tables on their political opponents for making misleading statements over the circulation of the IAEA safeguard agreement.

Stating that the interpretation of the whole development has been wrong, Moily maintained, ”It is wrong to interpret the request for convening the meeting of board of IAEA as going to IAEA.”

Describing the circulation of the draft agreement as a preparatory exercise for the convening of the meeting of the board of governors, Moily said once it was circulated, the government had acted promptly in placing the document in the public domain.

Talking about the time of the release of the IAEA agreement, Moily said there was an IAEA procedure for restricting and de-restricting a document and that India had publicised it as soon as it was taken off the restricted list.

Responding to the allegations by their estranged allies, Sibal said the Left parties could not take umbrage to the government’s move on approaching the IAEA as they had already withdrawn support to the UPA when this decision was taken.

“Once they have withdrawn support, their charge against the government has no meaning,” he said, clarifying that the request for convening a meeting of the IAEA board of governors for nuclear deal was not a decision making procedure and that a decision on he agreement would be taken at the next meeting of the board of governors, the date for which was yet to be fixed.

Both Moily and Sibal maintained there was no contradiction between Pranab’s statement and today’s situation. It was a classified document. It couldn’t have been made public at the stage of negotiations with the IAEA, it was underlined.

Hitting out at the Left leaders, Sibal said responsible persons should not spread canards without verifying the facts. The two leaders also stood by Pranab’s statement that the safeguards agreement would be finalised only after the government obtained a trust vote in Parliament.



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