Nuclear issues have been a wild-card in the Indian politics in the recent years, affecting quite a few unexpected turns. Manmohan Singh who as a Finance Minister discouraged nuclear energy in the early 1990s for economic reasons, found merit in the same for political reason during his bonhomie with George W. Bush’s America. The former PM got so obsessed with the nuclear deal that he put his government at the stake in 2008, and played a political maverick by shunning the Left allies and wooing the Samajwadi Party. This move surprised even his political mentor Sonia Gandhi as she maintained a distance from the UP satrap ever since Mulayam Singh ridiculing her during the 2004 campaign.
Later, when the Nuclear Liability Bill came to an impasse’ in the parliament, the Congress party again had to make amends with the principal opposition, the BJP. The BJP then was strongly opposed to several provisions of the draft Bill, including the ridiculously low cap on the liability and the attempts to let of the foreign suppliers. On that occasion, the Congress party allegedly struck a deal with the BJP to loosen the CBI hook on Narendra Modi who was then facing serious charges of abetting communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 and the Shohrabuddin fake encounter case. The allegations about a Cong-BJP deal were leveled by two prominent regional leaders who themselves faced such arm-twisting at several occasions by the Centre using the CBI.
During the whole discussion on the nuclear deal, Modi did not utter a word then. Now it seems to be pay back time for him, with his government’s u-turns on nuclear policy and his nuclear shopping spree. The Modi government is unceremoniously dumping the positions taken by BJP over last 10 years when it was in opposition, be it its reservations on the IAEA protocol, nuclear liability, its demand to review the green clearance for Jaitapur or its support of the issues raised by Koodankulam villagers as genuine and real.
It would not be surprising if Modi uses the nuclear wild-card and allow exemption for the US companies from the Nuclear Liability Act, to enhance his stature with the US and other international powers looking for a pie in India’s nuclear market.