Special Correspondent

Special session of Lok Sabha before August 11 to prove majority

New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance government will press on with the implementation of the civilian nuclear deal with the United States only after winning a vote of confidence in Parliament, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here on Tuesday.

At a press conference here hours after four Left parties announced withdrawal of support to the UPA, Mr. Mukherjee said the government would take a decision on convening a special session of Parliament as soon as they received a formal communication from the Rashtrapati Bhavan asking them to prove their majority.

Though official sources indicated that the vote could be held as early as July 21, the Minister would only say that the special sitting would be called sometime before August 11, when the monsoon session is due to begin.

Mr. Mukherjee said the government would send India’s draft safeguards agreement to the International Atomic Energy Agency Board for approval only if it won the trust vote in Parliament. “I cannot bind the government if we lose our majority,” he said.

Were it to lose the vote, the government would continue in a “technical” capacity until elections but would not have the moral authority to “bind” the country to “an international agreement.”

Asked whether he was confident the government had the requisite numbers in Parliament, he said the “taste of the pudding is in the eating" and that he did not “indulge in the sharing of confidences or the numbers game.” Everything would become clear when the trust vote was held in the Lok Sabha.

On the Left’s charge that the government did not show the text of the safeguards agreement to the UPA-Left committee, he said the “outcome of the negotiations” with the IAEA was shared in the form of a summary of the safeguards draft. “But we could not share the actual text as it is a classified document between India and the IAEA.”

The IAEA Secretariat told India that the document could not be shared with others without first being circulated to the agency’s 35 board members. That could not be done without India first signing it. Notwithstanding this, the government had shown summaries of the relevant provisions dealing with concerns such as fuel supply assurances raised by the Left.

Mr. Mukherjee said he only wished to set the record straight. “I am not entering into any acrimony [with the Left]. We appreciate the support they gave us for four years to keep at bay the communal forces.”

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