|AB Bardhan, Prakash Karat
New Delhi, Nov. 10: No personal attack will be made on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when a debate on the nuclear deal takes place in Parliament, CPI leader A.B. Bardhan has told The Telegraph.
“It is an important policy matter, so why should the debate get into personal attacks and charges' It should focus entirely on policy questions,” Bardhan said.
The government has tentatively scheduled the debate for November 15 and 16, immediately after Parliament sits for the winter session. “This is assuming that the BJP will not disrupt the House,” a Congress source said.
The United Progressive Alliance and the Left have apparently reached an understanding, arising from a common perception that divisions in the “secular” ranks would help the BJP in the House and in the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections.
So, the Prime Minister — certified as a person of “unquestioned integrity” by CPM general secretary Prakash Karat — flagged off the peace initiative by hosting Bardhan and Karat to lunch at his residence today. Sonia Gandhi and foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee were there, too.
Karat and Bardhan said the nuclear deal debate should be held “at the earliest” after which the UPA-Left nuclear panel should meet so that “both sides could assess where they stood”.
“The government is keen to pursue the talks with the IAEA. These are matters that have to be clinched by the panel and not the debate. So we want the meeting fast,” a Left source said.
The panel, set up to break the deal deadlock, had been scheduled to meet on November 16. The Left today agreed to the Congress’s request to put it off till the Parliament debate was over.
Left sources, however, said they wouldn’t wait interminably for the next meeting because that meant it would not happen till after the Gujarat and Himachal elections (by the end of December). And by the time the polls end, it would be time for another round of festivities and the year-end break.
The Prime Minister will be out of the capital from November 20 to 25 for the Asean and Commonwealth summits. His presence, however, is not required at the nuke panel meeting, expected a day or two after the debate.
The lunch meeting discussed the broad framework for UPA-Left floor co-ordination in Parliament. A Congress source said the “broad understanding” was that neither side would let the other be “embarrassed” on “sensitive” matters.
For the Congress, this meant the nuke deal and for the Left, Nandigram. The National Democratic Alliance and the Trinamul Congress have sharpened their offensive against the Left on Nandigram.
That the “show of unity” had kicked off in earnest was reflected in the media releases of the lunch meeting put out by the government and the Left. They were identical.
“It was agreed that the statement made by the Prime Minister on the 123 Agreement during the last session of Parliament should be taken up for discussion at the beginning of the forthcoming winter session of Parliament,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.