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No-trust whispers to seal of integrity

Oct. 31: Prakash Karat’s statement to The Telegraph yesterday that the Prime Minister’s integrity is unquestioned marks a significant shift in the Left’s stand.

Since 1991, when he launched economic reforms as finance minister, the Left has been wary of Manmohan Singh’s economic and political worldview. A slur way back in 1992 following the Harshad Mehta-led bank securities scam had almost led Singh to quit politics.

Whispers of lack of trust have done the rounds of Raisina Hill for the past two-and-a-half months, since the start of the nuclear stand-off. Though the Prime Minister has seldom been named, those in the know did not miss the point.

At a recent meeting at 10 Janpath, a Left leader said he was being “misled” by the government. Sonia Gandhi stepped in to clear the “misunderstanding”, sources said.

Although Karat’s statements do not overtly suggest a softening of stance on the nuclear deal, they are aimed at dispelling the notion that the CPM general secretary had anything personal against Singh, senior cabinet ministers said.

Party leaders are hoping that the coming special session of Parliament will see more headway on the deal. The optimists see the possibility of a more vocal Singh assuring the Left and the Opposition about the India-specific safeguards.

With Karat saying there is no reason the government should not last its full term, Congress leaders said they would love to see the Prime Minister strike a rapport with the Left leadership like Sonia has done.

A section of the party feels that being a “technocrat”, Singh does not always go the “extra mile” to strike a personal rapport. This lack of rapport with the Left was glaring when he was leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha from 1999 to 2004. Although both parties were ever eager to take on the Vajpayee regime, the House did not often see Left MPs following Singh’s lead.

After the UPA government took office, the Left leaders interacted with it “politically” through the National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi till it became defunct.

The Congress’s thrust on “economic Right and social Left” also contributed to a wedge as there is little structured interaction between the Prime Minister and the Left.

Sonia has played a pivotal role in narrowing the Left-PM differences. Her recent visit to China and an “open mind” on the stand-off have helped in a situation that seemed to have reached a point of no return, the sources said.

Before her trip, CPM leader Sitaram Yechury briefed junior foreign minister Anand Sharma on the finer points, they added.

All eyes are now on the Parliament session to see how the Left articulates its concerns. If Singh can respond to some of them and convince the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group to “give more”, the Left, Congress leaders believe, might continue to rave and rant but will avoid pressing the “pause” button.

At present, though, the government has put negotiations with the IAEA and the NSG on hold while it tries to convince the Left of the benefits of the deal.

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