New Delhi, Aug. 13: The government today said it was against any Parliament vote on the nuclear deal, circling its wagon on a day an unusual round of posturing saw the Right courting the Left.
The assertion came after the NDA, which had been insisting on a discussion under a rule that entails voting, sent feelers to the Left.
BJP veteran L.K. Advani called up CPM chief Prakash Karat and sought cooperation to block the deal in a telling, but largely symbolic, gesture that shed light on the games being played on the nuclear deal.
The Centre does not think that the Left will vote with the BJP — such a step would spell the end of the UPA experiment — but it is worried that a vote would formally expose cracks in the political establishment on a deal that is being touted as the high point of Manmohan Singh’s foreign policy.
The Congress’s isolation in both Houses of Parliament underlined the gap between its perception of the deal as synonymous with “national interest” and that of the other parties.
The NDA and the “third front” created a furore in the Lok Sabha and the Left joined in belatedly — perhaps to avoid being seen as making common cause with the BJP — as the Prime Minister read out his statement. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned before Singh could speak.
The Prime Minister defended the deal saying it was “good for India and good for the world” and that “posterity” would vindicate him. “I am neither given to exaggeration nor am I known to be self-congratulatory. I will let history judge,” he told the Lower House.
For now, the Congress will play for time, especially with the BJP trying to exploit its standoff with the Left, sources said.
The Centre was, therefore, only too happy to agree to the Left’s request to postpone a debate on the deal, which had been scheduled for August 14 and 16.
The CPM wants to wait till the August 17-18 politburo meeting before it firms up its parliamentary strategy — whether to bail the government out by opting for a simple discussion or insist on a vote.
While the CPM waits, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee will keep talking to the Left leaders. A meeting of the United Progressive Alliance-Left co-ordination committee has been ruled out, though.
Mukherjee this evening conveyed the government’s stand to CPM member Sitaram Yechury, telling him it was not possible to take a “sense of the House” as the Left wanted.
The minister later told reporters he had informed Yechury that “there is no provision in our Constitution for the ratification of international treaties.”
The NDA had earlier given notices for “ratification”, which Parliament cannot do. The Opposition alliance has now filed fresh notices that call for “renegotiation” of the deal.
It is up to the Speaker to decide whether voting will be allowed or not but usually, the Chair does not go against the wishes of the government.
Mukherjee said the Prime Minister had followed the example of Indira Gandhi who had shared with the Opposition the details of key agreements although not constitutionally bound to do so.
Answering Karat’s charge that the government had flouted the common minimum programme (CMP) by negotiating the deal, Mukherjee said: “We have strategic cooperation with China, Russia, France, the European Union, Britain, the US and Japan. Should we mention each of these countries in the CMP'”