Left incensed over Sonia's remarks ahead of UPA-Left panel meet

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New Delhi, Oct 8 (UNI) Stung by Congress President Sonia Gandhi's criticism of the opponents of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Left parties today appeared on a collision course with the Manmohan Singh Government on the eve of a meeting of the UPA-Left political mechanism on the pact.

This will be the fourth meeting of the high-powered panel which has so far failed to make any headway in view of the sharp differences between the UPA and the Left parties over the deal.

The meeting will be held at the residence of Committee Convener and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The two sides today appeared to be preparing themselves for a showdown at tomorrow's meeting.

Top Left leaders were upset with Ms Gandhi's statement while addressing a rally at Jhajjar in Haryana yesterday in which she made a veiled attack on the Left parties by describing the opponents of the agreement as ''enemies of progress and development''.

''The Left parties categorically reiterate that the nuclear deal with the US is against the interests of India,'' the leaders of the four Left parties said in a joint statement here.

The brief statement was signed by CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan, RSP Secretary Abani Roy and All India Forward Bloc General Secretary Debabrata Biswas.

''Those who advocate the deal should know that India is capable of developing nuclear energy primarily on a self-reliant basis. We need not surrender our vital interests to America on this plea,'' the statement said.

The UPA Government seems determined to go ahead with the deal while the Left parties are of the view that the pact is not in the country's interest as it would make India a pawn in the hands of Washington.

That Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Congress President are prepared for any eventuality, including the withdrawal of support by the Left to the UPA Government, became clear on Saturday. At an 'Iftar' party at his residence, Dr Singh, when asked by reporters if a snap poll was inevitable, said ''nothing is inevitable'' while Ms Gandhi said if the election were held the Congress would face it.

However, some senior leaders like former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu are still making efforts to emphasise on both the UPA and the Left parties to find a way out of the logjam so as to avert a snap poll.

Yesterday, the External Affairs Minister had held a meeting with Mr Basu to explore ways to end the imbroglio.

The meeting of the UPA-Left panel will coincide with the arrival here tomorrow of IAEA Director-General Mohammed El Baradei.

UNI

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