The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal makes Karat kinder

Calcutta, Oct.1: Four days of Calcutta air have made Prakash Karat a kinder comrade.

The CPM general secretary today confined himself to asking the Centre “not to proceed with the nuclear deal”, steering clear of hallmark threats like “serious consequences”.

Capping four days of deliberations in Calcutta where Bengal leaders have advised against pushing the country to early polls, Karat ducked questions on whether withdrawal of support was included in the “appropriate measures” the party politburo has been authorised to take if the government defied the Left.

Instead, the CPM leader raised hopes of resolving the crisis through negotiations at the Left-UPA joint mechanism — for which he had hardly shown enthusiasm earlier.

The party will also hold fire to allow the winter session of Parliament to discuss the deal. The session begins in November and is expected to continue till Christmas.

Karat’s restraint could be tactical, but his comments suggested that the party leadership had agreed not to burn bridges with the UPA until all options are exhausted.

Earlier in the morning, Jyoti Basu, who was instrumental in deferring the final showdown with the Congress, said today’s decision was “unanimous”.

Addressing a news conference, Karat said: “The government should not open talks with International Atomic Energy Agency on the next step of negotiating the text of a safeguards agreement. The government should wait for the Left-UPA joint committee to deliver.”

As the committee is likely to wrap up after two rounds of talks on October 5 and 14, the party wants the government to freeze the deal till the discussion in Parliament. “The committee is a poor substitute for Parliament. We want the government to wait till the House discusses the issue,’’ he said.

CPM sources said with Parliament in session, the government might exercise caution on pushing ahead with the nuclear deal.

Karat indicated that the party was hoping for a negotiated settlement. “Both sides are trying to find ways to resolve the crisis. The process is on. It will be unfair to say that nothing has been or will be achieved.’’

The comments gain significance in view of Basu’s statement yesterday that the party would wait to see what “concessions” the government can offer.

Karat showed restraint while replying to a question on the Prime Minister. “I don’t have the luxury of interpreting what the Prime Minister said,” he replied, asked whether Manmohan Singh had climbed down after daring the Left to pull out.

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