The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong toasts tough PM

New Delhi, Aug. 11: The Prime Minister’s dare to the Left to withdraw support over the Indo-US nuclear deal has pepped up the Congress and united it behind the treaty.

Gleeful party leaders applauded Manmohan Singh in private for “finally standing up to the Left and calling its bluff”, thus shedding the “weak PM” tag hung on him by the BJP’s L.K. Advani.

In an exclusive interview published in The Telegraph today, the Prime Minister had said: “I told them (the Left) that it is not possible to renegotiate the deal…. I told them to do whatever they want to do, if they want to withdraw support, so be it.”

There was no official response from the Congress with its media cell apparently waiting for a word from the “high command”, but it was clear that Singh had turned a hero.

“It was time the Left was shown its place,” a party general secretary said.

The interview has removed whatever doubts some within the Congress had about the nuclear deal — whether it might turn India into a US lackey and how the Muslims would see it.

Whoever was contacted had the same response: the Congress Working Comm-ittee had congratulated Singh over the “best possible deal”, struck on “India’s terms”, and the party was bound by that.

Most saw the interview as the “best possible armour” the Prime Minister could have donned before Parliament sits on Monday to listen to his statement.

“He has disarmed the Left before that. Had he kept quiet and allowed them to go on with their rhetoric and threats, the BJP would have harped on its pet theme of him being a weak PM. That has been take care of,” a source said.

Few seemed worried about the Left withdrawing support. “Would the Left calmly assess whether it can come back with the 60 seats it won in 2004'” a cabinet minister asked.

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