| Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh at a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Aug. 11: Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of Vice-President Hamid Ansari’s swearing-in at Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening, the Prime Minister, too, made it clear that while the deal was “not renegotiable”, there was no imminent threat to the government’s survival.
“Why are you talking about a mid-term poll'” he said in reply to a query while Sonia Gandhi emphatically said “no, no, no” to the same question and refused to say a word more.
In a formal statement reacting to Singh’s interview in The Telegraph today, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The Prime Minister and the government must realise that this agreement is not acceptable to the majority in Parliament.”
On the question of withdrawal of support, he said: “As far as the approach to the government is concerned, we will take our own counsel.”
That, sources said, meant the Left would not be pushed into taking up the Prime Minister’s dare but “retain the prerogative” to decide when and whether to withdraw support.
CPI leader D. Raja was more explicit. “The Prime Minister has not said that he does not want our support. It is our decision to support the government and the question of withdrawing support is a larger political decision. When to withdraw, how to withdraw, whether to withdraw is for us to decide. He cannot decide for us.”
Although relations between the government and the Left have not reached a breaking point, Singh’s interview — which created a nationwide political storm today — appears to have hardened the Left’s attitude towards him.
This is evident from a particularly sarcastic jibe in Karat’s statement. He said: “We do not share the optimism that India can become ‘a great power with the help of the United States’. India is a country endowed with sufficient resources and self-confidence to carve out its own path of development.”
The words are clearly in response to Singh’s remarks to The Telegraph that the Left was underestimating India’s “intrinsic strength” and its growing stature as a world power.
Raja, too, made it clear that the Left was entirely unmoved by Singh’s “anguish”. He was getting unnecessarily personal about the Left’s political and ideological opposition to a particular deal.
“We are not bound to support everything this government does. The Prime Minister has a position (on the deal) and we have ours. There is a big difference and it should be acknowledged and discussed and debated,” he said.
The CPI leader added: “If he says I am anguished, we are also anguished about the deal.”
Singh said this evening that “all this (the differences with the Left) can be resolved amicably” and his statement on the nuclear deal in Parliament on Monday will clear things. But given the Left’s mood in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s first public criticism against them, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.