Amid CPI-M warning, PM gets support from allies on N deal


New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday won backing from two key allies over the India-US civil nuclear deal after Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury warned that his party could end support to the government if an India-specific safeguards pact was clinched with the IAEA.

Support TwoCircles

The Left warning followed reports that the prime minister was adamant on the nuclear deal, angering the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and three other leftist parties that prop up the Congress-led government.

Even as he gained public support from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and DMK, Manmohan Singh has asked Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar to convince the Left to give the green signal to the government to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

At the same time, the Communists are talking to members of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to woo some of them to their side.

But Congress allies RJD and DMK Thursday made it clear that they were with the government on the subject.

A CPI-M source quoted RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad as telling Yechury that signing the nuclear deal would not mean “surrendering to the US pressure” — as claimed by the Communists. Yechury met Lalu Prasad at the latter’s Rail Bhavan office Thursday.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat has had telephonic discussions with DMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. But the DMK too declared Thursday that it was with the prime minister on the nuclear deal.

However, Lok Janshakti Party leader and Steel Minister Ramvilas Paswan said his party would go by what the UPA-Left nuclear committee decides, a position akin to that of the Left.

Speaking to reporters outside the CPI-M head office, Yechury said: “We will reconsider our support if the government goes ahead with the IAEA.”

He said the issue could be discussed at the next meeting of the 15-member UPA-Left nuclear committee, which is expected to meet June 25 or 26, after External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee returns from Australia.

But he added: “There is nothing like a point of no return. We can explore the possibilities in the next meeting.”

In the same breath, Yechury insisted that the government should not proceed to seek the approval of the safeguards agreement from the Vienna-based IAEA.

The Left says it is not privy to the text of the safeguards pact.

And amid signs that the Congress might go ahead with the IAEA pact, the CPI-M has begun wooing some UPA allies. Despite the shadow boxing, both the Congress and Left are wary of early elections, party sources say.

A scheduled meeting of the UPA-Left nuclear panel was postponed Wednesday after two meetings between Mukherjee and Karat could not find a common ground to resolve the crisis.

There were a series of meetings and discussions in the Congress also. Sonia Gandhi, her political secretary Ahmed Patel, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Mukherjee discussed the party’s options if the Left chose to end its legislative support. Gandhi also spoke to Manmohan Singh Wednesday evening.