Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Delhi's Political Equation

With the Samajwadi Party refusing to reveal its mind on the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal till July 3, other constituents of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) are busy trying to assess the emerging situation in a bid to draw their respective party lines.
Particularly busy on Tuesday was the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) with senior leader K. Yerrannaidu meeting Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, UNPA constituent and Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chauthala.
After meeting Mr. Chauthala and Mr. Karat, the TDP leader told me over phone (on behalf of Star News) that he was just trying to take stock of the developments ahead of Thursday’s meeting. "Instead of going by what is being said in the media, we want to make sure for ourselves the respective party positions on the issue."
As for the possibility of the UNPA arrangement getting unstuck should the Samajwadi Party decide to go with the Congress on the nuclear deal, Mr. Yerrannaidu refused to speculate on such an eventuality at this juncture.
Earlier in the day, the Samajwadi Party leadership continued to speak about the Congress with the guarded tone and tenor it has adopted since its position on the deal became crucial to keeping the United Progressive Alliance government alive.
Asked whether the party continued to consider the Congress as beyond the pale, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh said: "In politics, we can have differences but any party can be an ally."
About Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s charge that the Samajwadi Party was planning to align with a party (Congress) that wanted to do business with a country (the U.S.) which had Muslim blood on its hands, SP general secretary Amar Singh said it was unfortunate that attempts are being made to communalise the issue.
Also, the Samajwadi Party sought to point out that Ms. Mayawati had been supportive of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi after the 2002 carnage.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Confident that the Samajwadi Party would support the deal, he told reporters that both the government and the nuclear deal would survive.

Taking seriously the Left threat to withdraw support to the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, if it proceeds with signing the nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the government has almost got the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Janata Dal-Secular and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) on board.
SP general secretary Amar Singh, who met external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday night and CPM general secretary Prakash Karat on Tuesday clearly indicated a change in tone.
SP president Mulayam Singh Yadav expressed similar sentiments. He and Singh spelt out "fighting the communal BJP-BSP nexus" and avoiding elections at this stage as their first priority. But this has put Mulayam Singh in a piquant situation.
SP sources said while Mulayam was keen to save the government to avoid early elections, he was reluctant to ditch the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA)-he leads, till he was certain of the numbers on the side of the government.
The UNPA comprising the SP, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is meeting here on Thursday to discuss their stand on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal. So far it has opposed the deal.
The Congress has asked Mulayam to persuade his UNPA partners to support the deal. To arm the SP with a cogent argument to support the deal the government has despatched National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan to make SP leaders understand the finer points of the deal, which they in turn will further communicate to their UNPA partners.
Mulayam was willing to try but had reportedly told the Congress leaders that he was not hopeful of winning over the other UNPA partners. In fact the battle lines within the UNPA on this issue seemed already drawn. In the run up to the UNPA meeting TDP parliamentary party leader K. Yerrannaidu accompanied by former party MP K. Rama Mohan Rao first met Karat here on Tuesday and later met Mulayam.
Mulayam maintained that elections at this juncture would only help Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s BSP in UP and the BJP nationally and for that both Mulayam and Amar Singh clearly indicated that they were ready to change their tone.
Mulayam said, "In politics there are no permanent enemies though there may be ideological differences."
Similarly, Amar said, "In UP, the BJP and the BSP are one force for my party. Despite being ditched by the BSP thrice in the past, the BJP is ready to go again with it," he added.
Simultaneously railway minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, working overtime as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s emissary again met her along with Pranab. In a parallel development, Left leaders are meeting here on Friday. The four Left parties have reportedly authorised their leaders in Delhi to get together and prepare the draft for withdrawing support at a short notice, if the government proceeds with the deal any further.
Meanwhile, the CPM Politburo has dismissed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s appeal to allow him to proceed up to the nuclear deal and his offer to come back to Parliament after that.
The statement said, "This would mean a fait accompli, as the only step left would be the vote in the US Congress."
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