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UPA has support of 276 MPs: Pranab

July 21, 2008 14:44 IST
Last Updated: July 21, 2008 17:33 IST

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An Alliance in Crisis

The United Progressive Alliance has the support of 276 Members of Parliament, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee claimed during the trust vote debate in Lok Sabha on Monday.

The senior Congress leader also assured the House that India's interests would not be compromised by the nuclear agreement with the United States.

The government on Monday said it will seek the consent of the Parliament before operationalising the Indo-US nuclear deal, which it described as a "passport" for cooperation with the international community.

Making a strong defence of the nuclear deal during the debate on confidence motion, Mukherjee rejected the Left parties' allegations of betrayal and took potshots at leader of opposition Lal Kishenchand Advani, saying he should not "distort" facts in "over enthusiasm" to score political points.

He sought to allay fears on account of the Hyde Act, saying it had no reflection in the 123 agreement and the "prescriptive" elements in the US law will never be acceptable to India.

Emphasising the government's commitment to non-proliferation, he said, "We still believe nuclear weapons are not to win battles. It is total disruption and destruction of civilisations."

At the same time, he added that civil nuclear initiative with the US would end the country's 30-year-old isolation and help reduce electricity deficit by 1.50 lakh MW by 2050.

He said unless India gets exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, even "friends" like Russia [Images] and France [Images] cannot agree to cooperation in the civil nuclear field.

"The Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency clearances are like passport and visa. Whether we travel or not, it depends on us. If there is no passport we cannot travel," he said.

"Please, let us have this passport and visa. Then we will decide if travel and if we travel, what should be the destination," he said in an impassioned speech that won him accolades from Congress president Sonia Gandhi [Images], Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and other colleagues.

Terming Parliament as the "ultimate master," Mukherjee said, "whatever judgment you give, we will accept. We can only plead our case" on the nuclear deal.

Mukherjee, who has been an interlocutor between the government and Left allies during their four-year association, rejected their allegations that they had been "betrayed" on the nuclear deal issue, saying everything was done after taking them into confidence.

He had a "pointed" poser for them: "Keep your hand on your heart. Do you feel this is an issue on which the government should be brought down?"

He took a dig at the Left parties and asked them not to associate with BJP in voting against the government. Referring to CPI-M leader Hannan Mollah's comments that Left parties could not "jump from a running train if BJP was also travelling" on the same, Mukherjee said, "Don't jump from the running train. Wait for the next station which is coming."

Hailing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's "visionary approach" of undertaking the civil nuclear initiative with the US, Mukherjee said even legendary French president Charles de Gaulle had met with resistance when he started civil nuclear revolution in his country after the end of World War II.

Attacking the BJP, particulary Advani, the leader of the House said that like the nuclear deal, the saffron party had vigorously opposed India going to WTO in early 1990s.

"But, later the NDA government approved the same WTO agreement, with "cosmetic changes" and got Parliament's clearance with Congress support, Mukherjee said.

Attacking the NDA government's track record, Mukherjee suggested that he was not sure whether any future BJP government would renegotiate the nuclear deal as was being claimed.

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