Sunday, June 22, 2008

What will the Government do about the nuclear deal ?

This is surely something that must be scaring the Congress chief (Sonia Gandhi, not Manmohan Singh). The same Prime Minister who last August backed down after initially acting like a lion (remember the statement - 'this is not a one issue Government' ?) is now suddenly passing out signals that he wants the nuclear deal to be done, and is willing to sacrifice the support of the left.
Sonia Gandhi must be scared out of her wits - her compliant Prime Minister is suddenly displaying a spine, her reluctant allies (the ever pressurizing left) are threatening that they will have a team outside Rashtrapati Bhavan to give the withdrawal letter to the President if the Government states its intention to go ahead with the nuclear deal, inflation is out of control and threatens to remain so, farmers are protesting in many states because of the fertilizer snafu, the other allies (NCP, DMK, RJD, etc) are all potential allies of the Left and hence not particularly eager to buck the support of the Left and go in for maybe possible early elections where they will also get tagged with the inflation and bad governance tag, and the Congress is losing states left right and center, ceding many of them to the BJP.
This particular issue comes as a surprise to most political observers; after all, the nuclear deal had more or less died out as an issue that the Congress would bother to pick up a fight for - it does not have electoral appeal, most people in the country would not bother to base their voting pattern over such a deal, and the left would have painted proponents of such a deal as being very aligned to the US (not a very appealing prospect to most parties who believe that this would put off the Muslim vote - not a done deal, but most parties believe that this is the likely case). It was only strategic observers who bemoaned the loss that the country was facing over the failure of such a deal (and the fact that such a deal was not something that India's neighboring countries were happy over). There were weaknesses in such a deal, but the fact is that unless India were to steal advanced technology, this deal is about as good a deal as it got (and that too because Washington has its own motives behind such a deal, including the advantages that its own nuclear plant firms would get).
So now what happens ? I would suspect that eventually the Prime Minister will back down; they have already done so many rollbacks because of the pressure of the Left that maybe they have lost the guts and sight to see that the Left would face a bad time if elections were held now. The Left faces pressure because of the Nandigram incident, and Kerala is ripe for a movement of the electorate to the Congress (because the Left Government in Kerala has not exactly been an epitome of good governance); further, if the Left withdraws support now, and the BJP comes to power, then the left loses whatsoever influence it has over the policies of the country.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:51 AM