Notwithstanding his stiff opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat has hailed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his "unquestioned integrity" and disagreed with suggestions that he would resign.
Karat said the Left parties had respect for Singh and "there was no reason why the United Progressive Alliance government should not complete its full term".
"It is true that there has been a basic difference in approach between the prime minister and the Left on the nuclear agreement. We recognise that he has strong convictions on the soundness and utility of the agreement," the CPM general secretary said in an interview to The Telegraph.
He, however, added that the "differing view (between Singh and the Left) on the agreement does not mean that we do not have respect for the prime minister. His integrity is unquestioned."
Karat also disagreed that the prime minister, through an interview to the same newspaper less than three months ago, had precipitated the stand-off between the government and the Left.
In the interview, Singh had dared the Left to withdraw support over the nuclear issue.
"That has had no bearing on our stand on the nuclear deal, nor did it precipitate any crisis. The political stand-off arose because of divergent positions and not personal differences," Karat insisted.
Left parties, providing crucial outside support to the ruling UPA, are opposed to the Indo-US nuclear agreement and have warned the government of serious consequences if it went ahead with operationalising the deal.
Karat said he did not agree with those who felt Singh should step down if he could not go ahead with the agreement or that there was a basic lack of trust between the Left and the prime minister.
There is no question of "smelling blood or hounding the government" for the rest of its term if it chose survival over the deal, the CPI(M) leader said.
Talking about Singh's strong convictions with regard to the deal, Karat said, "As far as I am concerned, I appreciate the frank exchange of views we have had on many occasions."
The CPM general secretary also dismissed the view that Singh would lose prestige if he continued in office by giving up the deal.
"As the prime minister heading a coalition government without the backing of a parliamentary majority for the deal, his not going ahead despite his firm conviction that it is a good deal will not detract from his stature," he said.
"This situation (of leaders not having their way) is well understood in coalitional politics around the world," he said.
Karat praised UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Singh for their statements at the Hindustan Times Summit earlier this month when they both spoke out against early elections.
"The remarks made by the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi should be appreciated as they have not made the nuclear deal a make-or-break issue," the Left leader said.