To the delight of UPA, Lalu sings 'nuclear tune'

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New Delhi, Jun 19 (UNI) The embattled UPA government, locked in a bitter feud with the Left parties on the nuclear deal, today received a shot in the arm with Railway Minister and RJD President Lalu Prasad defending the agreement as ''an imperative necessity to meet the energy requirements of the country.'' Taking potshots at the Left parties for their opposition to the 123 nuclear deal with America, Mr Prasad said it reflected ''their mania against and allergy to the US'', which would only create a stumbling block in India's pursuit of its energy needs.

Mr Prasad, whose Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is an important constituent of the UPA government at the Centre, however exuded confidence that the deal would be signed without the government being sacrificed.

''However, it will be possible only if all the constituents of the UPA start discussing the matter in a cool, dispassionate matter and without indulging in oneupmanship,'' he said.

The minister made the statement at a press conference in Rail Bhavan, barely minutes before his talks with CPM polit bureau member Sitaram Yechury.

The RJD President said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had taken all the coalition partners into confidence on the nuclear deal, and there was ''no justification at all'' for opposing the government's move to sign the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA.

He also trashed the idea that India would become subservient to the US by signing the deal. ''On the contrary, it will also allow India to do nuclear commerce with France, Russia and China, besides the US. Then there is also a 'divorce clause' in the agreement. The fact is that India needs power and nuclear energy is the best option for the country.'' In this connection, he referred to the hydel potential of the country, ''but whenever India goes for big dams and hydel plants, there is opposition from people like Sunderlal Bahuguna and Ms Medha Patkar.'' Significantly, Mr Prasad observed that the increase in power and clout of regional parties was ''unfortunate'' as it had led to the weakening of two mainstream parties at the Centre -- Congress and BJP.

''The UPA government was installed at the Centre after hammering out a Common Minimum Programme. There may be disagreement among the parties on certain issues, but it is also incumbent upon them to thrash out their differences without putting the government into a jeopardy,'' he reasoned out.

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