The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong reads between Karat’s lines
Full-term hope and cloud of suspicion

New Delhi, Oct. 31: Prakash Karat’s soothing words about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have generated mixed feelings in the Congress.

Spokesperson Veerappa Moily said: “It’s a positive statement and shows the understanding between the Left and the Congress… we will resolve all issues slowly.

“The nuclear deal is a very critical issue and the differences are serious. But we understand we have come together on a very firm principle of secularism and on the other matters, there is only issue-based support.”

The CPM general secretary had told The Telegraph yesterday he respected the Prime Minister and that his integrity was unquestioned.

Off the record, a Congress Working Committee member said Karat was responding to “our strong complaint that they had created a situation in which the government cannot work even if it were to abandon the nuclear deal”.

“Dr Manmohan Singh was singled out for personalised attack; they described him as Bush’s agent and even burnt his effigy during the protest against the Indo-US joint exercise,” he pointed out.

Sources in the Congress said the Left was told the attack on the Prime Minister was unfortunate and that he was not isolated from the party leadership.

“The impression of a lame-duck Prime Minister was like poison for the government. The BJP felt emboldened. We told the communists this will not help matters,” a senior party functionary said.

A section in the Congress that has been in favour of the government lasting its full term even at the cost of sacrificing the deal felt Karat’s “careful responses” could now help repair the damaged ties.

“If we have to work together, we must mend our fences. Deal or no deal, the government should have the legitimacy to govern and the Prime Minister’s authority is the most vital ingredient for that,” the CWC member said, appreciating the emphasis on the Prime Minister’s integrity.

But a sizeable section of leaders are dismissive of Karat’s statements.

“Don’t trust these guys… these leaders were attacking the Prime Minister in a vicious manner till the other day. They were negotiating with the UNPA. You can never tell what they will do tomorrow,” a cabinet minister said.

This section believes the Left is trying to buy time because it is not ready for elections. “We would have pushed the deal after the Gujarat polls and gone for elections after presenting the budget. Not only they, even their UNPA isn’t ready for election. Hence this soft posturing,” a senior leader said.

The Prime Minister’s integrity and authority were never in doubt in the people’s minds and it was only the Left, along with the BJP, that tried to damage his image, the Congress leaders said. The “respect” now shown is meaningless, they added.

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