The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tehran to tarmac, Left lashed

New Delhi, Feb. 4: The airport ceasework has been called off without achieving its original objective and India has voted with the US against Iran, making it a Black Saturday for the Left.

Smarting under the double blow, the Left leadership is meeting tomorrow to discuss the “future course” amid murmurs from at least one CPM leader about the party’s support to the UPA government.

The agitation against private companies being given the dominant role in modernising Delhi and Mumbai airports ended after the government formalised through a written statement what had been agreed upon after the Prime Minister intervened yesterday.

The statement said a panel would look into proposals for modernising airports by the state-run Airports Authority of India and address the issue of job security.

The document did not name any airport but it is assumed that the panel would deal with proposals for Calcutta and Chennai. This suggests the modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports can go ahead as scheduled unless there is a legal intervention.

The formal announcement of the end of the airport agitation was almost simultaneously followed by the news that India voted with the West to report Iran to the UN Security Council for Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme.

With Russia and China agreeing to vote with the US, and the West agreeing to dilute the resolution by deferring a discussion on punitive measures till March, India had little option but to go with the majority.

The Centre pointed out that the sugar-coated deal had actually helped Iran gain time for negotiations. “Our vote in favour of the resolution should not be interpreted as in any way detracting from the traditionally close and friendly relations we enjoy with Iran,” the foreign ministry said.

Though India had not publicly declared which way it would vote at the Vienna meeting ' The Telegraph had reported on February 2 that Delhi would go with the US ' the government had tried to cushion the blow during interactions with the Left.

But the confluence of the setbacks on airports and Iran ' by a coincidence because the Vienna vote was delayed and spilled over to Saturday 'seems to have rubbed more salt into the Left wounds.

The Left is seething but it is unable to make up its mind on how to take on the “secular coalition”. “What can we do'” asked a Left leader, pointing out that extreme measures like bringing the government down would be self-defeating as it would only help the BJP.

However, Bengal CPM chief Anil Biswas said in Calcutta: “We have to think how long the Congress can enjoy our support.” The politburo will meet in Calcutta on February 9 and 10 to discuss the government’s “deviations’’ from the common minimum programme.

Sources in Delhi said, pushed to the brink, the Left could consider limiting its support to the government on individual issues as it had done when Narasimha Rao was in power.

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