The Politics of ‘Pay Back’: The Nuke Deal and Nandigram

Following the Congress climbdown on the Nuke Deal, we had cautioned that the “pausing” of the Deal be taken with a pinch of salt, since it was likely that negotiations on the Deal would continue behind the scenes and the Deal would be taken forward at a more opportune political moment. We had held that scrapping the Deal was the only way to ensure the death of the Deal, and had demanded that the Deal be put to vote in Parliament. It hasn’t taken long for those apprehensions to be vindicated. A fresh turn in the Nuke Deal drama comes with yet another somersault – this time by the CPI-CPI(M).
As late as August 18, the CPI(M) Politburo had warned that “the government should not take the next step with regard to negotiating a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Then, the CPI-CPI(M) had held that they considered negotiations with IAEA on India-specific safeguards to be an irrevocable step towards operationalising the Nuke Deal; a step that would force them to withdraw support from the UPA Government. A little later, the CPI-CPI(M) had relaxed their position to state that India could go to IAEA but must not however negotiate the safeguards agreement. Now, barely three months later, the CPI-CPI(M) have taken the stance that the UPA Government can go ahead and negotiate India-specific safeguards with the IAEA.
What becomes clear from this entire turn of events is that UPA-Left Committee on the Nuke Deal is not a platform intended to stop the Nuke Deal in its tracks. If that were indeed the intention of the CPI-CPI(M), a vote in Parliament could have been a far more effective and foolproof mechanism. Rather, the Committee is a face-saving measure for the CPI-CPI(M); an ‘honourable’ retreat from their threats of withdrawal of support; while all the time the UPA Government continues to take the Deal forward. This pattern of rhetorical opposition followed by capitulation in practice is quite in keeping with the previous record of the CPI-CPI(M) throughout the UPA Government’s tenure: the Patents (Amendment) Act being a memorable instance.  
The timing of this change of stance by the CPI-CPI(M) is especially significant. The inevitable conclusion is that the capitulation on the Nuke Deal is the quid pro quo extracted by the Congress in exchange for soft-pedalling by the Centre on Nandigram. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya described Operation ‘Nandigrab’ as an act of ‘pay back’: his party’s cadre were presumable paying back the peasantry for their unforgivable victory against the CPI(M) Government’s dream SEZ for the Salem Group. Now the CPI(M) is ‘paying back’ the Congress for its relative silence on Nandigram by allowing the UPA Govt to go ahead with the Nuke Deal. No doubt the Congress will suitably pay back the Left for its timely, inevitable and predictable surrender on the Nuke Deal.  
The people of this country have the task, however, of paying back the UPA Government and the CPI-CPI(M) for their surrender of India’s sovereignty, for the SEZ Act and corporate land grab, for state-sponsored repression on people’s resistance and for the organized political violence on women at the forefront of the movements. The scrapping of the Indo-US Nuke Deal and justice for the peasants of Nandigram are not negotiable!

- Kavita Krishnan