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UNPA seeks expert opinion on nuclear deal

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WEIGHING OPTIONS: United National Progressive Alliance leaders (from left) Amar Singh, Om Prakash Chautala, Mulayam Singh, Chandrababu Naidu, Brindavan Goswami and Yerran Naidu at a press conference after a meeting of the alliance in New Delhi on Thursday.
WEIGHING OPTIONS: United National Progressive Alliance leaders (from left) Amar Singh, Om Prakash Chautala, Mulayam Singh, Chandrababu Naidu, Brindavan Goswami and Yerran Naidu at a press conference after a meeting of the alliance in New Delhi on Thursday.

Anita Joshua

Mulayam: there are differences, but we’ll move forward together

NEW DELHI: The United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) on Thursday decided to take expert opinion on the civilian nuclear deal with the United States and maintained that there was no question of its supporting it without a national debate.

Briefing journalists after a crucial meeting of the UNPA here, Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh said the alliance was of the considered opinion that the clarification issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Wednesday on the points raised by his party’s leadership during a meeting with National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan should be studied by an expert of indisputable repute. SP chief Mulayam Singh will select the expert.

Stating that he did not expect such a quick response from the PMO, Mr. Amar Singh reiterated the demand for a national debate on the deal.

For his part, Indian National Lok Dal leader Om Prakash Chauthala expressed dissatisfaction with the PMO’s clarification but said the UNPA wanted a second opinion on it from experts. Admitting to differences within the UNPA on the nuclear deal, Mr. Mulayam Singh asserted that all the constituents were united and would move forward together.

After the meeting, Mr. Mulayam Singh, Mr. Amar Singh and Samajwadi Party member of the Lok Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav met the former President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, to discuss the deal.

Putting up a show of unity by holding hands ahead of the press conference, the UNPA leaders’ refrain was: “We are one and the UNPA is strong like a rock.” While the leadership was one in demanding a national debate, none was prepared to commit himself to a time frame. All that Mr. Chauthala said to repeated questions was that there was no question of the UNPA issuing the “go-ahead” certificate to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ahead of the G-8 meeting in Japan next week.

On reports of the Samajwadi Party joining forces with the Congress, Mr. Chauthala said: “All of us have been accused of hobnobbing with one party or the other outside the UNPA. None of us is going anywhere.”

Mr. Amar Singh said there was no bar on interaction between political adversaries and such meetings did not mean loss of identity for any party.

Thursday’s meeting was convened by Mr. Mulayam Singh after his 39 members in the Lok Sabha became crucial for the survival of the United Progressive Alliance government in the context of the Left threat to withdraw support.

“National debate”

PTI reports:

Mr. Chautala there were concerns that needed to be addressed. “There should be a national debate. Till we are satisfied, we will never support the government on the deal.”

“It is not an issue [the nuclear deal] just for the government and Parliament alone. The whole country should debate it. The Prime Minister should explain to the nation what the deal is,” Mr. Chautala said.

Referring to National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah’s absence at the meeting, Mr. Chautala said he could not come due to the Jammu and Kashmir bandh. “His absence does not mean that there are differences in the UNPA. We are all united.”

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