The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nuclear deal fate tied with Modi’s

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The impact of the Gujarat Assembly elections might be felt in Washington — the result could have a crucial bearing on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In the past few days, Raisina Hill and the central hall of Parliament have begun to debate what was so far considered an unthinkable proposition: what if Narendra Modi concedes Gujarat to the Congress'

The chances of Modi’s defeat may be thin but in Delhi, it is being seen worth chalking out a contingency plan.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are not known to make their thoughts public. Sources close to them, however, insist that the top UPA leadership is game to seek the “people’s mandate” if Modi is dethroned. In such a situation, the fate of the nuclear deal seems bright.

The rationale of Sonia risking long-term ties with the Left goes like this: the euphoria of conquering Modi would be nationwide. The Congress would be its lone beneficiary and the much-touted minorities’ opposition to the deal would be easily overcome.

If this translates into reality, Congress managers hope to have little dependence on allies in the 15th Lok Sabha.

In Parliament today, a section of Congress MPs could be heard whispering if Modi’s defeat would be an individual setback to them. After all, next February or April is too close for comfort.

Some wonder if Sonia had a deeper message in her address to the Congress parliamentary party meeting yesterday when she said: “I hope that you will spend time in your constituency, amongst the people, speak to them about our programmes, inform yourselves about their implementation, learn from them what they expect of us and as party workers, participate in activities which strengthen the party.”

It is an open secret that every Congressperson — from Sonia to a block-level member — nurses the same dream: the party forming a government on its own at the Centre.

The big question now doing the rounds is: Could Modi be the person who helps the party achieve it'

A section of Congress members, mostly ministers, favours a “step-by-step” approach, implying that even in the event of a Congress victory in Gujarat, the party should wait till May 2009.

This minuscule group, which does not relish the prospect of losing the perks of office, favours the Congress netting one state after another — Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura to Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan — before going into a general election.

A defeat in Gujarat would be bad news for the pro-deal lobby. There would be a belligerent BJP, a triumphant Modi and a dejected secular brigade.

The need would then be to close ranks to save other states from going the Gujarat way. The UPA constituents might remind Singh that the alliance was based on the principle of keeping the communal forces at bay and the deal should be sacrificed for a greater good.

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