N-DEAL SHOWDOWN SOON
THE confrontation between the UPA and the Left over the Indo-US nuclear deal has entered the most crucial phase with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressing his government's resolve to go ahead with the deal in Parliament and the Left seeking a meeting of the UPA-Left mechanism for discussing the contents of the negotiations with the IAEA. With the government working out a tentative timeline for taking the next step on the agreement, the meeting of the UPA-Left mechanism is expected to be convened before March 15. The leaders of the Left parties interpreted the prime ministerial assertions on the issue in Parliament as an indication of the regime's plans to finalise the text worked out with the IAEA. Although the prime minister refused to divulge details about the negotiations with the IAEA, there are indications to suggest that the text of the agreement is ready. Inside Parliament, the prime minister kept harping about working out a broader consensus within the country on the deal. "We will seek the broadest possible consensus within the country on the agreement. I believe this cooperation (with the US) is good for our energy security,' the prime minister told Parliament. But the Left leaders are not willing to buy into the assertion of the prime minister. For, the lack of political consensus was evident during the debate when a significant majority opposed the agreement. The disquiet in the Left was evident from the response of senior party leader Jyoti Basu to the prime minister's statement in the House. He hinted that the Left could soon sever ties with the UPA. "They are dependent on us. We are also dependent on them for keeping the BJP out of power. I do not know how long this arrangement would continue,' reports from Kolkata quoting Mr Basu said. Mr Basu also contested the government's stand that the Hyde Act will not be binding on India. "We have told them not to proceed in operationalising the deal. How can they say the Hyde Act is not binding on India,' Mr Basu said. The government leadership seems to be of the view that there was no political point in giving in to the biases of the Leftists. With the populist budget providing it the comfort level to take on the Leftists, the pro-deal sections have managed to get the Congress establishment on board in their efforts. Till the other day, the leadership of the Congress was quite unenthusiastic about the nuclear project of the government. But there are many imponderables. For the Congress leadership is yet to sound out the UPA partners on their plans on the deal. The Congress will have to factor in the views of partners like the RJD and the NCP. Parties such as the NCP are against a course that will annoy the Left. Atal Bhishma Pitamah of Indian politics, says PM PM Manmohan Singh bestowed the title of "Bishma Pitamah of Indian politics' on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while egging on the BJP to support the Indo-US nuclear deal in Parliament on Thursday. He said this while talking about the nuclear deal during his reply to the motion of thanks to the President's address in the Upper House. Mr Singh said that after the former national security advisor to Mr Vajpayee, Brijesh Mishra, had "listened to the call of his conscience' and come out to support the deal, Mr Vajpayee who was "Bishma Pitamah of Indian politics' should let "national interest prevail over narrow political interests'. Mr Mishra, however, is no longer a BJP member.