India coalition in crisis

NEW DELHI – India yesterday announced that it would go ahead with the controversial civilian nuclear agreement with the United States regardless of the political consequences it faces at home. The disgruntled Communists - a key coalition partner - have set a deadline of Monday after which they would withdraw support to the ruling alliance.

By Ravi S Jha (Chief correspondent)

Published: Sat 5 Jul 2008, 2:16 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 6:05 PM

The Left parties set the deadline for the government to tell them for once and all whether they are going ahead with the deal or not. But a determined government seemed prepared for any political outcome.

In a strong message to the Left parties, the Congress-led coalition asked the Communists to withdraw support from the government, if they wanted to. The government said the UPA was prepared to go ahead with the deal as soon as it could. In the meantime, the governing Congress is negotiating a new alliance with its one time bete noire – the Samajwadi Party, whose support in case of the Left withdrawal may save the government. The government rejected the Monday deadline set by the Left and said the deal was on.

The Communists said Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's attending of the G-8 summit in Japan would come as a sign of the government going ahead with the deal. To which the government responded stressing that Dr Singh would not only be visiting Japan, but also be meeting President George Bush on Wednesday to discuss the nuclear deal.

The Left parties said they would send a letter of withdrawal of support to the president and prime minister once the deadline passed. “We have decided to pull out of the government. The only thing that has to be decided now is the date of withdrawal of support. We will wait till Monday,” CPM chief Prakash Karat said.

Imminent polls?

It is clear that Left parties would part ways from the coalition. However, if the government succeeds in getting the vital support from the Samajwadi Party, it can save the government from falling immediately. Or else it will have to dissolve the parliament and recommend general elections. The elections will have to be held within six months of the dissolution of parliament.

Given high tensions with the Left and uncertainty of a deal with Samajwadi Party, the governing Congress appears to have prepared itself for the worse. If the Left parties withdraw support next week, the Congress-led alliance will have to prove its numerical strength.

If the deal with Samajwadi Party doesn't come through, a decision on the dissolution of parliament and fresh elections will have to be taken upon Dr Singh's return from Japan.

Going by this timeline, the Election Commission will have to hold general elections anytime before February next year. Political uncertainty, however, looms large, as the Samajwadi Party has refrained from throwing its weight behind the nuclear deal. The party has said it needs independent opinion to decide on the nuclear deal. Besides, political modalities will also have to be worked out by the Samajwadi Party for providing support to the government, and it can take time.

India’s foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon while talking to reporters said that Dr Singh would discuss with President Bush the progress made on the nuclear deal on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Japan. He said Dr Singh was going on a three-day visit, and the government would like to go ahead with the deal as soon as possible.

“We will go ahead with it as soon as we can. Once we take a decision to approach the IAEA, we will let you know,” he said adding the US was committed to getting India exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group for nuclear commerce under the July, 2005 civil nuclear cooperation agreement

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