Indo-US nuclear deal: Left hardens opposition

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Hyderabad/New Delhi, Jun 17 (UNI) On the eve of the crucial meet tomorrow of the UPA-Left panel on the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Left parties today made it clear that the Union government cannot sign the deal and continue pursuing ''anti-people'' economic policies.

CPI floor Leader in Lok Sabha Gurudas Dasgupta said in Hyderabad that ''it has become incumbent upon the Left parties to review its relation with the Centre.'' Mr Dasgupta demanded the resignation of Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia for ''mismanaging'' the country's economy, leading to unprecedented price rise, fall in industrial production and collapse of the Public Distribution System (PDS).

''However, no timeframe can be fixed for reviewing support...we don't decide on the basis of electoral considerations,'' he underlined.

''We have not backtracked on the nuclear issue. The UPA regime cannot go ahead and sign the deal,'' he made it clear, alleging US President George W Bush was mounting pressure on India to sign the deal ahead of the elections there. This was not a singular example of how the Centre was acting under USA's pressure, he claimed.

He said ''The time has come for Mr Chidambaram and Mr Ahluwalia to decide whether they should continue in office after totally mismanaging the economy.'' Contending that the Left parties, extending crucial outside support to the Manmohan Singh government, could not be held responsible for its policy decisions, he said ''all policies are framed by the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Planning Commission Deputy Chairman. They always lend a deaf ear to our suggestions.'' Panel convenor and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met CPM general secretary Prakash Karat in New Delhi last night and is reported to have asked the Left parties to allow the government to seal the safeguards agreement with IAEA.

Talking to UNI, Mr Karat confirmed the meeting, but refused to divulge the details.

''Yes, we had one-to-one meeting, but the details will be known tomorrow,'' Mr Karat said.

Asked about the status of the deal and Left viewpoint, Mr Karat chose to evade the question on the plea that ''our views are well known.'' Another important member on the panel, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said in tomorrow's meeting ''we will know the government's view.'' ''As far as the Left views are concerned... our position remains unchanged,'' Mr Bardhan underlined.

Elaborating, the CPI veteran stated while the government wanted to execute the deal, the Left parties were vehemently opposed to it.

However, according to observers, the meeting to be held at Mr Mukherjee's official residence at 1600 hrs is not likely to provide any breakthrough with Mr Karat and Mr Bardhan sticking to their respective positions.

While the top brass of the government, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, have made a strong pitch for the nuclear pact, the Left leaders assert, ''We cannot go by a timetable set by the Bush administration.'' The Left parties, in an earlier meeting on May 6, had asked for a text of the agreed draft, reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

''But the government has so far not furnished any detail of the draft to us,'' Mr Bardhan said.

The Left leaders said their basic objection is on the 123-Agreement and the Hyde Act. ''Any attempt to push forward the Agreement, is definitely bound to be decried. Besides, we have made it clear that we are not bound by the US timetable,'' Mr Bardhan, veteran Communist and CPI General Secretary said.

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