Change your astrologer: PM to Advani

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New Delhi, Jul 23: Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India said in the Lok Sabha that the Left parties wanted to have a veto over every single step on the Indo-US nuclear deal and expected him to ''behave as their bonded slave'' which were ''not acceptable.'' Apparently explaining the reasons for the developments that resulted in the 59-member Left withdrawing support to the UPA government, Dr Singh said the Communists did not show even the ''simple courtesy'' of allowing him to go ahead with the procedures of the deal before coming back to Parliament for its approval for operationalising the agreement.

The Prime Minister made the clarification in his reply to the two-day debate on the confidence motion that was necessitated by the parting of ways by the Left. Allaying apprehensions over the deal, Dr Singh said there was no ''explicit or implicit constraint on India to pursue an independent foreign policy'' Also, ''the strategic programme will continue to be developed at an autonomous pace determined solely by our own security perceptions. We have not and we will not acept any outside interference or monitoring or supervision of our strategic programme.

''Our strategic autonomy will never be compromised. We are willing to look at possible amendments to our Atomic Energy Act to reinforce our solemn commitment that our strategic autonomy will never be comprised,'' the Prime Minister assured the House.

Dr Singh laid the text of his prepared speech on the table of the House as the Opposition did not allow him to deliver it, shouting slogans from the well.

The UPA government won the vote of confidence with a comfortable 19-vote margin. The government got 275 votes for the motion, with 256 voting against it.

The Prime Minister was equally scathing in his remarks against Opposition leader L K Advani.

The Prime Minister did not respond to the dramatic developments in the House earlier in the day when the BJP brought in a bagful of ''bribe'' money offered by dealers entrusted with the task of ensuring majority for the government and the BSP claimed that the CBI had been let loose against its members to force them to vote in favour of the motion.

But he made an indirect attempt to reduce the impact of these happenings by opening his speech with a remark that Mr Advani had made ''at least three attempts to topple our government'' and fulfil his ambitions.

''But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Shri Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India's sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.'' He made the observation after recalling that Mr Advani had chosen to use all manner of abusive adjectives to describe ''my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM.''

Dr Singh said he did not want to rebut every charge of Mr Advani. ''All I can say is that before levelling charges of incompetence on others, Shri Advani should do some introspection. Can our nation forgive a Home Minister who slept when the terrorists were knocking at the doors of our Parliament? ''Can our nation forgive a person who single-handedly provided the inspiration for the destruction of the Babri Masjid with all the terrible consequences that followed? ''To atone for his sins, he suddenly decided to visit Pakistan and there he discovered new virtues in Mr Jinnah. Alas, his own party and his mentors in the RSS disowned him on this issue. Can our nation approve the conduct of a Home Minister who was sleeping while Gujarat was burning leading to the loss of thousands of innocent lives?'' The Left Front should ponder over the company they were forced to keep because of ''miscalculations by their General Secretary'' (Prakash Karat), the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister said the Left should clarify whether Mr Advani was acceptable to them as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Mr Advani should explain if he would step aside as Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition in favour of the choice of UNPA. ''They should take the country into confidence on this important issue.'' He said he was convinced that despite their opportunistic opposition to the nuclear agreement, history would compliment the UPA government for having taken another giant step forward to lead India to become a major power centre of the evolving global economy.

UNI

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