The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pawar pitches for survival over deal
- Hillary link to ally stand

New Delhi, Oct. 9: A new stumbling bloc has come up in the way of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

Led by Sharad Pawar, UPA allies Lalu Prasad and M. Karunanidhi want the Big Two to choose the government over the nuclear deal.

Union agriculture minister Pawar’s logic is simple: if the government survives, the deal will be in place. If the UPA ignores the Left’s concerns, it will lose both.

Considered a politician among politicians, Pawar articulated his concern for government survival at the Left-UPA meet on the deal. Railway minister Lalu Prasad echoed him, saying none of the allies wanted snap polls.

Pawar’s formulation is interesting. In political circles, he is a strong votary of reform and is seen as pro-US. But political instincts were compelling him to be “pragmatic”, he said.

He said he was committed to standing by Singh on the deal but would not advocate going ahead with it if the government’s survival was at stake.

“We all must remember that it is a coalition government where allies and partners’ feelings have to be considered.”

Pawar said his “contacts” in Washington did not present a rosy picture. When Hillary Clinton came to his place for lunch, she had dubbed the deal a “sellout” of US interests and said the Democrats would junk it if voted to power.

He said several US senators were uncomfortable about backing the deal. In such a context, was it wise to “go all out” on the deal that may or may not be approved by the US Congress and Senate, he asked.

Since the UPA came to power three years and five months ago, Pawar has fancied himself as a sort of UPA coordinator, though he has never been accorded the designation. The row over the deal could give him room to be more assertive.

In the Congress, there is a sense of relief. Many partymen and ministers, who were confident of the government’s survival during the Prime Minister’s iftar on Saturday, had feared the worst on Monday night.

For them, the news of the Left-UPA panel having another meeting on October 22 has come as a relief. Most Congress leaders and MPs — all from the Lok Sabha — dread snap polls. They question the point of breaking ties with the Left and then counting on the same arrangement after the elections.

The dominant view in the Congress is to relish survival and dole out as many populist measures as possible to prepare the ground for the next general elections.

Senior leaders said a lot would depend on how the Congress leadership responds to the Left’s insistence on not “operationalising” the deal. If the Left and the UPA continue negotiations till the year-end Gujarat Assembly polls, Narendra Modi’s victory or defeat could throw up a number of other possibilities.

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