The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Natwar insults and Left threatens

New Delhi, Aug. 9: Natwar Singh described him as weak, ignorant about foreign affairs and lacking courage to stand up for colleagues in trouble.

The Left warned him about “serious consequences” if the Indo-US nuclear deal is not discussed in Parliament.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looked vulnerable today — and at times it seemed the Congress wasn’t doing enough to support him in public.

Singh skipped the customary tea hosted by the President after a ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan to felicitate 400 freedom fighters. Tongues wagged. Congress sources said Singh left to avoid possible queries from the media about Natwar, the nuclear deal and the office-of-profit bill which has not yet been signed by the President.

“It gives me no pleasure to say that he is a weak PM,” Natwar said a day after he was suspended from the Congress.

“He knew nothing of foreign affairs… when I am in difficulty he does not have the courage… to say something in my favour.”

A more venomous attack on a Prime Minister from a party colleague has probably not happened before, but a Congress source said: “Natwar has lost whatever credibility he had in the company of Amar Singh (Samajwadi leader). Why should we reduce ourselves to his level'”

The Congress first threw forward ministers Kapil Sibal and Anand Sharma to defend the Prime Minister and spoke up only after questions were asked why the party was quiet after Natwar’s snarls.

Responding to the estranged party leader’s attack, Abhishek Singhvi, the official spokesman, said: “For over 40 years, he (Natwar) was with the Congress. The party has given him so much and after all this, he is going against it.”

But it’s the Left’s threats over the stalemate over a discussion on the nuclear deal that would worry the Prime Minister more.

“If the government continues with its reluctance to discuss the details of the deal, the Left parties will have to decide on future plans,” CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury said. “The next week of the Parliament session will be crucial for the government regarding the deal.”

In this vulnerable moment for Singh, the Congress is watching the movements of party leaders like Arjun Singh and Vayalar Ravi, former associates of Natwar, and Ajit Jogi, who had earlier started a signature campaign to make Sonia Gandhi Prime Minister.

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