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We will explore all possibilities. It does not mean we will compromise on basic principles

According to the PTI, despite their firm opposition to the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Left parties today rejected BJP’s plan to drive a wedge between UPA and its Left allies and made it clear to the main opposition that they would decide their parliamentary tactics on their own. The signal came from CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat hours after Leader of Opposition L K Advani rang him up to solicit Left support for holding a discussion in Parliament on the nuclear issue under a rule that entailed voting.

It was not the Left’s “go it alone” response to the BJP but the foreign Minister’s slip that gives an interesting twist to the events playing out in the national capital.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is the party’s key trouble shooter including with the Left parties said this after a meeting with CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.

“Congress party is interested in running the Government for full term. We will explore all possibilities. It does not mean we will compromise on basic principles,”

When Offstumped had called on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call the Left’s bluff little did we expect that he would go so far as to dare the Left to withdraw support. In assessing the fallout from the Prime Minister’s remarks Offstumped had speculated on the likelihood of the wedge finally beginning the countdown to draw of curtains on the UPA-Left axis.

Pranab Mukherjee’s comments today confirm two things – nervousness in the party and the wedge between the UPA and the Left.

 But before we get to that it is important to pose the question why did the Prime Minister go so far as to dare the Left to withdraw support ?

The Indian Express had an excellent piece on how the Left had reduced the UPA Government and especially the Prime Minister to a doormat riding roughshod on every policy issue. Now one must juxtapose this doormat like treatment with the Prime Minister’s own standing within the Congress Party. It is no accident that the Prime Minister sought re-election via the Rajya Sabha rather than take the opportunity to seek a direct mandate from the people to enter the Lok Sabha. Behind the sphinx like silence of Sonia Gandhi lies this rather unpalatable reality for the Prime Minister. She does not see him as an election time Prime Minister who will lead the effort to seek another term for the Congress.

So from the Prime Minister’s standpoint between now and 2009 there would come a time when he would have to cede the centerstage to the heir-apparent. So what really is happening here is you have a Manmohan Singh looking at the lame duck half of his tenure with very little leverage left to push policy leading him to be ever more sensitive to his legacy.

How will history remember Manmohan Singh as a Prime Minister ?

He clearly sees the Indo-US Nuclear Deal as his legacy and he was not just about to let the Left or his own party’s political considerations, including the abject lack of readiness of the “heir apparent”, to stand in the way of tarnishing that legacy.

Whether the Congress goes to polls in 2007 or 2009, there is little political capital left for the Prime Minister to build his legacy. The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is pretty much it.

So you have the Prime Minister willing to push matters to the very brink to save his legacy.

So coming back to Mukherjee’s comments, they are reflective not of the Prime Minister’s intentions to run the government for a full term but the “Congress Party’s” intentions, read Sonia Gandhi’s intentions.

Now the unsuspecting amongst us have assumed all along that the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi were of one mind on this issue. But apparently not, look at the clever political maneuvering as before to distance the Congress President from the Prime Minister.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi is expected to reveal her mind tomorrow on the controversy over the Indo-US nuclear deal which has been rejected outright by the Left parties

Offstumped Bottomline: Pranab Mukherjee’s reference to the Party’s intentions and Sonia Gandhi’s evasive replies on the Prime Minister’s threat are clear indications of the nervousness that has gripped the Congress. The wedge is real, it is but a matter of time before the UPA-Left axis begins to unravel.


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