The media has been gushing over Comrade Prakash Karat. He is described as
India's most powerful man. He has received paeans of praise for his strategic skill and ideological consistency. The rationale for his political approach is simple. First, he is opposed to the Indo-US nuclear deal because he believes that getting close to the US would compromise
India's national interest. Secondly, despite serious reservations about Congress policies he continues to support the UPA government in order to block the BJP which he considers the greater evil. Therefore he scuttles the nuclear deal but does not withdraw support to the UPA government for fear of strengthening the BJP.
To further weaken the Congress without toppling the government he is forging close ties with the regional parties of the Third Front. He has already cemented ties with allies of the Congress within the UPA. His apparent success thus far has been hailed as a dazzling performance. Unfortunately too many sound bytes on TV sometimes not only mislead media analysts but intoxicate performers who overestimate their own prowess. What could be the eventual result of Comrade Karat's exertions?
No party wants to face a snap election. All parties are in disarray. Only the Congress in desperation to maintain face internationally toyed with the idea of a mid-term poll rather than surrender on the nuclear deal. Until now it has not finally surrendered. So what are its options?
If it fails on the nuclear deal it will seriously damage its future electoral prospects for being weak and inept. Within the government it is isolated among its own allies. In the opposition it could confront a hostile Third Front led by the CPI-M. Therefore to save the nuclear deal as well as the government it is left with only one option. And that is to strike a deal with the BJP. Comrade Karat has driven the Congress in a corner leaving it only one escape route. So will the Congress seize it?
Much will depend on the BJP. The party despite its bravado is right now in no position to face a poll. Also, its abetment in killing the nuclear deal could extract a heavy price from its constituents in future polls. So can the BJP get back on course and support the nuclear deal that it initiated? There are faint signs that it just might.
Mr Brajesh Mishra who opposed the nuclear deal earlier softened his stand in a most curious way. Speaking to a TV interviewer he said: "If I were to get credible guarantees from the government about the integrity of what the NDA left behind three and a half years ago, what has been done in these three and a half years for them to prove that they're also enthusiastic about the nuclear weapons programme, then I would say, personally, to go forward with the deal because I am not critical of the US for following this particular policy."
What an amazing disclosure! Was Mishra all this while opposing the government -- not the nuclear deal? One is sure he is not so dense as to confuse the performance of this government with the clauses of the nuclear deal and oppose it for that reason. This suggests possibility of reversing policy. If it reflects the attitude of the BJP there can be major re-alignment of political forces. It is not impossible that Comrade Karat's exertions might eventually result in the nuclear deal going through and the BJP sharing power with the Congress. It depends on whether Mishra spoke for himself or for the former PM he served. Through all the noisy debate on the nuclear deal Atal Behari Vajpayee, with his cherubic smile, viewing the world through heavy lidded half-closed eyes, has maintained an enigmatic silence. Contrary to media reports, one has authentic information that he is mentally as alert as ever. So what is going on in his mind?