Journalists called Prakash Karat India's most powerful man. More powerful than the PM, that is. They called him India's second most powerful politician. Second to Sonia Gandhi, that is. Karat's fame grew with his handling of the N-deal issue. How did he handle it?
When the UPA government decided to execute the NDA government's initiative for an Indo-US N-deal, Karat opposed it. He said national security and India's independent foreign policy were compromised. The Left would withdraw support. The government went ahead and negotiated the 123 Agreement for the deal. Karat sought the agreement text. The government showed him the text. The agreement did not refer to nuclear tests. But the US government passed a domestic law, the Hyde Act, which forbade help to any nation conducting nuclear tests.
Karat said that the Hyde Act deprived India of its independence and jeopardized its national security. The government said that the US President was bound by the Hyde Act, not the Indian government. No international commitment prevented India from nuclear testing or pursuing an independent foreign policy. Karat asked why India had supported the UN resolution against Iran. The government said Iran violated its own assurances to IAEA. Russia and China also opposed Iran.
Karat was opposed to India having the bomb. But he wants India to be able to conduct nuclear tests. He was opposed to India becoming a nuclear power. But he wants Iran to become a nuclear power. The UPA government and Left allies set up a committee to settle differences. This happened years ago. The committee has met nine times. Each time the government reiterated its intent to sign the deal. Each time Karat issued an ultimatum to withdraw support if the government went ahead.
Now a few months remain for the government's tenure to end. Anticipating the Left's withdrawal the Congress has held talks with other opposition parties to cobble a majority in parliament. It seems to have succeeded. So Karat asked the government for clarifications about what the government would tell IAEA. We still do not know if he will or will not withdraw support. Or when he might withdraw support. It does not matter.
Forget the merits or otherwise of the N-deal. Consider the merits of Karat. On July 14 he will launch a nationwide agitation against the government's economic and foreign policies which it pursued for four years surviving on his support. One understands Karat admires Stalin. What would Stalin have thought of India's most powerful man?