Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can AK Antony be a compromise prime minister candidate?

14 May 2009,

NEW DELHI: With backroom discussions on in full swing in the quest for a new, viable government and talk about the Left coming around once again supporting a Congress-led government, the unlikely name of Defence Minister A.K. Antony has been thrown up as a compromise candidate acceptable to both sides.

This is one of the scenarios that could possibly emerge after results of the Lok Sabha elections are declared Saturday in which it is widely expected that no single party or alliance will be able to form a government on its own, say intelligence sources that keep a close ear to the ground in the inner precints of political decision making.

The assessment of these sources is that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) will again form the government at the centre, probably with the external support of the Left parties that broke away from the Congress on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal last year.

"For next five years the country's reins will be in the hands of A.K. Antony. He will be a compromise figure for the Congress and Left parties," a top intelligence official told IANS on condition of strict anonymity.

"Our assessment suggests that no party will be able to get the numbers (for a majority in the Lok Sabha). And they will seek alliances to form a government. It is very likely that the Left parties and Congress will get close to each other again.

"And they will agree on the name of Antony, a senior Congress leader from Kerala. He enjoys the confidence of the Left parties and the Congress. Our assessment says that he will be an acceptable face of both the parties and bridge the faith gap between them," said the official.

The assessment is based on the thinking that incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not be acceptable to the Left parties, or at least its

hardline faction, as the nuclear deal with the US was powered by the prime minister.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat has made no bones about his distaste for the prime minister and has ruled out any truck with the Congress post-polls.

But moderate sections in the party, particularly West Bengal Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee, do not rule out the two coming together to keep out the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from forming a government.

Antony has been thrice the chief minister of Kerala. He has also been a central minister besides being the leader of the opposition in the Kerala assembly.

Other factor which make the 68-year-old Antony favourable for the coveted position is his known clean image, said the official.

On chances of BJP leader L.K. Advani becoming the prime minister, the source said: "He may not be able to fulfill his wishes this time at least. Had the BJP contested elections in the name of a young leader or perhaps Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi, their chances of forming the government would have been very high."

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