|Our differing view on the agreement does not mean that we do not have respect for the Prime Minister. His integrity is unquestioned
Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary
New Delhi, Oct. 30: In his first public overture to Manmohan Singh since the bitter stand-off began in early August over the Indo-US nuclear deal, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat today underlined the Left’s “respect” for the Prime Minister and appreciated his “unquestioned integrity”.
Although there was no change in his stance on the deal itself, the CPM boss displayed a distinct softness towards the Prime Minister and the Congress — making it clear that the Left wanted the UPA government to complete its full term in office and there was no question of “smelling blood or hounding the government” for the rest of its term if it chose survival over the deal.
In an exclusive interview to The Telegraph today, Karat said he did not agree with those who felt Singh should step down if he could not go ahead with the agreement or that there was a basic lack of trust between the Left and the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister’s support for the deal stemmed from “strong convictions”, he said, adding: “As far as I am concerned, I appreciate the frank exchange of views we have had on many occasions.”
On the three-month-long face-off, Karat said: “It is true that there has been a basic difference in approach between the Prime Minister and the Left on the nuclear agreement. We recognise that he has strong convictions on the soundness and utility of the agreement. Our differing view on the agreement does not mean that we do not have respect for the Prime Minister. His integrity is unquestioned.”
Karat also refused to blame the Prime Minister for starting the crisis. Asked if the differences over the nuclear issue would have reached a crisis point if Singh had not publicly dared the Left to withdraw support, Karat said: “If you are referring to The Telegraph interview given by the Prime Minister, that has had no bearing on our stand on the nuclear deal, nor did it precipitate any crisis. The political stand-off arose because of divergent positions and not personal differences.”
The CPM general secretary also dismissed the view that Singh would lose prestige if he continued in office by giving up the deal.
“As the Prime Minister heading a coalition government without the backing of a parliamentary majority for the deal, his not going ahead despite his firm conviction that it is a good deal will not detract from his stature,” he said, adding: “This situation (of leaders not having their way) is well understood in coalitional politics around the world.”
Karat had a special word of praise for the statements made by Sonia Gandhi and Singh at the Hindustan Times summit earlier this month when they both spoke out against early elections.
The CPM leader said: “We are also of the view that there should not be early elections and there is no reason why the UPA government should not complete its full term. The remarks made by the Prime Minister and Mrs Sonia Gandhi should be appreciated as they have not made the nuclear deal a make-or-break issue.”
|The Telegraph report based on the interview with the Prime Minister on August 10
On whether those remarks meant that the deal was on hold indefinitely, Karat gave a guarded reply: “As it stands, the government has said it will operationalise the deal taking into account the findings of the committee. So, if not indefinitely, they are not proceeding till the committee is there.”
But the tenor of his remarks indicated that if the government gave in to the Left on the deal, the rest of the UPA’s term would be relatively smooth.
Echoing Sonia’s remarks that the UPA had a longer agenda to fulfil before the 2009 general elections, Karat said: “Once we resolve the nuclear deal issue, there are many more programmes and policies that the UPA government has to take up and implement.”
In this context, he spoke of the unorganised sector workers’ bill, the women’s reservation bill, notification of the tribal forest act and pursuing a dialogue with Pakistan — studiously avoiding any mention of contentious bills on pension reforms or labour laws.
Karat also reiterated — as he had done in Chennai yesterday — that his talks with Samajwadi Party and Telugu Desam leaders were limited to the nuclear issue and “I have not discussed with them the formation of a third front”.
The CPM’s decision to support the UPA government in 2004 was “necessary and correct” and “despite our basic differences with the Congress on a number of policy matters and differing class viewpoints, this arrangement has worked for the last three-and-a-half years”, he added.