Why is the Left huffing and puffing?

Is the Indo-US nuclear deal truly against India''s interest? A close look at the clauses of the 22-page agreement shows that it is not. By Prem Shankar Jha

Prem Shankar JhaFor three years, as an outside partner of the Manmohan Singh government, the Left has acted as a self-appointed watchdog of the peoples'' interests. Its interventions have often been salutary, and on balance the country may have gained more than it has lost from them.

It has been able to perform this function because it made it clear in the very first days of the UPA government that it would not push disagreement to the point of bringing the government down.

Why is it threatening to depart from this promise now? One reason may be Dr Manmohan Singh''s unexpected show of strength in absolutely refusing to submit the Indo-US nuclear treaty to further ratification by Parliament. To the Left this has not only come as an unpleasant surprise, but a calling of its bluff. If it backs down now, the entire nation will know that its feet are made of clay.

Dr Singh''s challenge too is most probably not the momentary lapse of a harassed prime minister who has finally lost his patience. The Congress knows that the next elections are at best 18 months away. It also knows that the anti-incumbency swing in the various states is, on balance, going to work against it, just it had worked for it in 2004.

It may therefore have more to gain from an early election, especially if it can legitimately claim that it has been prevented from transforming the future of the country.