The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Singh courts, Karat cross
- PM calls Yechury on birthday, CPM chief talks tough

Aug. 12: Sitaram Yechury’s 55th birthday offered Manmohan Singh a chance to slip back to his amiable self and give finishing touches to a speech in Parliament on the nuclear deal but Prakash Karat sent a loud message that the CPM would not be swayed by the Prime Minister’s “sensitivities” on ties with the US.

Singh, who responded in an interview to The Telegraph to Left criticism of the Indo-US deal, today called up Yechury and wished him a long life. Yechury could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, the day Singh is expected to bring Parliament on board on the nuclear deal if the House is not adjourned because of a possible furore over Goa.

Reaching out from a position of strength and apparently buoyed by the positive feedback from the Congress on his reply to the Left, Singh had sent a conciliatory signal to the Left yesterday by speaking of “amicably resolving differences” and followed that up with the birthday call today.

If the Prime Minister did mean to hand an olive branch to the Left, Karat’s comments today suggest he is not in a mood to let the government “off the hook” in a hurry. The stability of the government may not be at risk but such distrust could vitiate the atmosphere in which the coalition is run.

The jarring note came from Kerala, where Karat is on a local fire-fighting mission. “The Prime Minister is very sensitive about the relationship between his government and the US. But it is not a matter of sensitivities. What is of serious import is where will the nuclear agreement lead our country to,” Karat told a news conference in Thiruvananthapuram.

Although other Left leaders have said they would not withdraw support to the UPA government, Karat declined to give an unequivocal commitment and put the onus of running the coalition on the Congress.

The CPM leader iterated his warning that the Congress should keep in mind the “political consequences” of operationalising the nuclear deal.

“I said let them (the Congress) face the political consequences. Definitely there’ll be a political consequence, as I said earlier. We are going to mobilise the people against this agreement,” Karat said.

Sources feel that the “consequence” could eventually be confined to the mass mobilisation programme. But the earlier warning of “consequences” is thought to have touched a raw nerve in the UPA leadership, possibly prompting the Prime Minister to speak his mind.

Asked what the CPM’s stand would be if a vote is forced on the deal in Parliament, Karat said: “I haven’t said what we propose to do in Parliament but it is for the Congress to be aware of the political consequences of going ahead with its decision, ignoring the Left.”

But he said the Left would not back the Opposition. “We are not joining the Opposition but will place our views in Parliament. We are going to discuss the matter within the next two days. My tactics cannot be decided here (Kerala). We will discuss in Delhi what we will do in Parliament. We have a meeting of our general body of Parliament (members) tomorrow evening, we will discuss it.”

Sources said the Left believed that the government would not allow any discussion that entailed voting and would nip another potential flashpoint in the bud.

Asked whether the Left would withdraw support, Karat said: “Ask the Congress party whether they want to run this government.”

He added that India’s “strategic alliance” with the US is not mentioned in the common minimum programme, suggesting that the Congress is going against the gospel truth to which the coalition is yoked.

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