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Advani ammo for nuclear deal
Distance from Left, signal to Sangh

New Delhi, Aug. 27: The BJP has begun emphasising that it has problems only with some aspects of the Indo-US nuclear deal as it is wary of being clubbed with the Left.

Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani yesterday suggested that his party would accept the 123 Agreement if the Atomic Energy Act is amended.

“It is anti-Americanism which propels the Left to oppose a nuclear ship docked at Chennai port. As far as the BJP is concerned — and it is in national interest — we have no objection to a strategic partnership with the US. This includes the forthcoming joint naval exercises,” Advani told a newspaper in Hyderabad.

His words have set off a debate among senior BJP leaders on whether this was a dilution of the party’s earlier stand. While some leaders do not see it as a shift in position, others don’t agree.

“There were serious concerns about the BJP being clubbed with the Left,” a party leader said. “We were looking for ways to get out of the spot and Advani has probably articulated that position.”

Another functionary was more candid. “Public opinion cannot be ignored. We thought the tenor of our opposition required a makeover. After all, we are in support of India becoming a strong nuclear power and have nothing against strategic ties with the US.”

This section said the BJP was never rigid in its opposition and felt the deal was in national interest. Leaders belonging to this group said those who were out of tune with the party’s mood had taken a tough position, and Advani had tried to rectify that.

“Advani has only put the BJP’s opposition in perspective. We always wanted the deal not to impinge on our right to test and take strategic decisions,” a senior leader said.

But some leaders are not convinced and expressed surprise that Advani had articulated a different view without discussing it with the party’s core group.

“The core group is supposed to sit before the debate in Parliament and that will be the final view. Till then, the position taken by Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, which was finalised at the meeting in Vajpayee’s residence, is valid,” a BJP leader said.

Sources said some senior leaders were taken aback — especially after the media report on Advani’s comments — that the BJP had altered its position. They cited the RSS’s stand clearly opposing the deal.

Sangh mouthpiece Organiser has said the Left was justified in its opposition to the deal. “There was no need for the UPA to take forward the deal compromising national interest,” it said in an editorial.

But once Advani has shown the direction, it would be difficult for the party to take a different line, the sources said.

They said Advani, who was Deputy Prime Minister in the previous NDA regime, has deeper understanding of complex matters like the nuclear deal and is aware of the position the Vajpayee government took during negotiations with the US.

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