The Communist parties in India have withdrawn from the ruling coalition over the government’s decision to go ahead with a disputed civilian nuclear deal with the United States. This has raised questions whether the ruling Congress would have to go in for early elections after losing a crucial coalition ally. But the Congress government seems confident that it will survive this crisis.
Communist Party leader Prakash Karat
India's four-member communist bloc has decided to pull out from the ruling Congress-led coalition. They will now approach President Pratibha Patil to formally withdraw their support.
The Left parties’ decision came in response to a statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that India would go ahead with the controversial US civilian nuclear deal.
The Communist Party leader Prakash Karat confirmed: “The Left parties decided that if the government goes to the IAEA Board of Governors, they will withdraw support. In view of the prime minister's announcement, that time has come.”
Singh had said on Monday that he was approaching the nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, for an approval of the deal.
Crucial for energy security
While Prime Minister Singh claims the deal is crucial for India’s energy security, the Left parties feel it would give the United States undue influence over India’s foreign policy. The Communist parties, with 59 seats in the 545-member parliament, have helped the Congress maintain a parliamentary majority for four years.
With their withdrawal, the Congress-led coalition may have to go in for early elections if it fails to maintain its majority. The Left parties and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have demanded a vote of confidence.
But the Congress Party is confident that its government will not fall. The regional socialist Samajwadi Party has assured the government its support, although it was originally against the deal.
Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav explained the deal was important for protecting India's national interests: “The nuclear deal has been unanimously welcomed in the party. There had been some doubts in this regard, but I have persuaded the party members. I also personally support the nuclear deal.”
Despite Yadav’s statement, there are still some differences within the Samajwadi Party over endorsing the nuclear deal and siding with the government.
Rallying around the government
But even if all the members of the SP were to come out in support of the government, the Congress would still be seven seats short of the majority. However political analyst Gurpreet Mahajan said that these seats could be easily secured as there are many smaller political parties and independents likely to rally around the government in order to avoid early elections.
He explained that all the parties wanted some months to prepare for the elections so “a kind of support system may be worked out. We have yet to see whether they will join the government or whether it will be from the outside -- many of them may support from the outside and make sure the government does not fall at this time.”
With the political scenario seemingly stable at the moment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now keen to push forward with the nuclear deal. He is optimistic about receiving support from the IAEA’s board of governors, as well as the countries in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.