Sonia defends Nuke deal, Pranab meets Basu, Bhattacharjee

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Jhajjar/Kolkata, Oct 7 (UNI) UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today strongly defended the Indo-US nuclear deal and termed its opponents ''enemies of progress and development,'' even as the Left reiterated its opposition to the deal which ''compromised India's sovereignty and independent foreign policy.'' External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu, meanwhile, held an unofficial parley in Kolkata to explore ways to end the standoff that could lead to the UPA government's downfall and early general elections.

Addressing a rally in Jharli village in Jhajjar district of Haryana, Ms Gandhi, who had yesterday asserted her party was ready to face polls, called on the people for giving a ''befitting reply'' to those who created obstacles in the way of progress and development.

Asserting that the country needed adequate power for development, she said the Indo-US nuclear deal was signed keeping in view the increasing demand for electricity to keep pace with the rapid strides of development.

''When we are going forward on the way of development, some elements are creating obstacles. They are not only the enemies of the Congress but also the enemies of peace and development,'' Ms Gandhi said, while speaking at the Bijli rally after laying the foundation stone for the 1500 MW Indira Gandhi Super Thermal Power Project.

Hitting out at the Opposition for being jealous of the achievements of the UPA government, she said, ''Jab hamara dhyan vikas ke kamon ki taraf hai, virodhion ke dil me dard paida hota hai (When we are engaged in the process of development, it causes pain in the hearts of our opponents).'' The IAEA Director General Mohammed El Baradei is shortly arriving in India for informal discussions on India-specific safeguards, relating to the nuclear deal.

However, CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechuri, noting the forthcoming meetings of the Left-UPA panel would be crucial and indicate whether the country was in for snap polls, said the government and not the Left would be responsible for the mid-term elections.

''Our stand is very clear. We have asked the government not to pursue the deal,'' he said, addressing a news conference in Raipur.

Denying that the Left parties' stand over the nuclear deal would lead to mid-term polls, he said their agenda was ''neither to create political instability nor to force a mid-term election in the country, but to save it from the nuclear pact with the United States as the deal compromises India 's sovereignty and seeks to weaken the country's independent foreign policy.'' The meeting between Mr Mukherjee and Mr Basu came a day after the CPI(M) threatened to withdraw support to the coalition government if it held negotiations on the Indo-US nuclear deal at the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) for India-specific safeguards.

Viewed as a manoeuvre to find out a meeting point to aovid a political crisis and a mid-term poll, the meeting, held at the nonagenarian leader's Salt Lake residence, was also attended by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Left Front Committee Chairman Biman Basu.

None of them, however, spoke to media after the 40-minute closed door talks.

Rigid on its stand that the deal in its present form was detrimental to the country's sovereign nuclear and foreign policy, the CPI(M) and other Left parties had already warned the Manmohan Singh government not to proceed with it further.

However, in no mood to back out from the 123 agreement it struck with the US, the government categorically said there was no room for re-negotiating or scrapping the deal and that the Left should wait for the outcome of talks with the IAEA.

But aware of the negative impact that an early poll might create in the event of destabilsation of the government, both the sides had been on look out for a rapprochement, though not moving out from the respective basic stand point.

Though CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat issued an open threat to the UPA, a number of party leaders, including Mr Basu and Mr Bhattacharjee are said to be against any hasty action.

UNI

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