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Cake over, walk resumes
Singh having a piece of his birthday cake on board. (PTI)

Sept. 27: If he can cradle a red 'happy birthday' balloon in mid-air, relish a piece of cake under duress and do business with General Pervez Musharraf, is the Left such a hard nut to crack'

Pinning hopes on the 'inherent patriotism' of the Left, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned home tonight with an assertion that the problems with the ally would be sorted out 'when the chips are down'.

'I have great faith in their (the communists') inherent patriotism. I am very confident that despite different perspectives that we may have on how we look at various issues, that when the chips are down, we will be able to work out a programme of action which meets the challenges of our times,' Singh said en route to Delhi after a week-long foreign tour.

The Prime Minister promised to look into 'every aspect' of the issue of foreign consultants on Planning Commission panels who the Left want removed.

Some of the experts representing foreign agencies like the World Bank have offered to quit but Planning Commission deputy chairman and Singh's close associate Montek Singh Ahluwalia had said a decision is pending, angering the Left.

Ahluwalia, who was with the Prime Minister on the flight, said he has a 'formula' to resolve the row but did not elaborate.

If the undeclared 'formula' does not work, Congress sources said coalition chairperson Sonia Gandhi may be requested to intervene.

But the Left leadership is still looking to the Prime Minister to resolve the issue and drawing a distinction between Singh and Ahluwalia.

'The squabble got much worse after Ahluwalia said the foreign representatives were there to stay,' said CPI leader D. Raja.

The Left feels the matter may play out till the next meeting of the co-ordination committee, likely to be held in the first week of October.

Forced to 'celebrate' his birthday by journalists accompanying him , the Prime Minister dwelt at length on the Left. Singh said that in many ways he endorsed the concerns of the Left parties that the path chosen by the government should be one which at all times was aimed at helping the poorest people of the country. 'These are values which I cherish.'

'There will be differences about how we get to the final outcome but I am confident we will work together. That is my hope, that is my faith. I have absolutely no doubt. I look forward to working with all colleagues in the Left,' the Prime Minister said.

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