M A I N   N E W S

Mamata gives Centre 15 days to bail out Bengal
Tribune News Service

Kolkata/New Delhi, April 21
Nearly a month after she arm-twisted the Centre into partially rolling back rail fares, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today issued a 15-day ultimatum to the UPA government on her repeated demand for a three-year moratorium on the huge interest burden of the state.

The Trinamool Congress chief’s warning came at an official function, where she said the Centre must help the state in the present financial crisis within the next fortnight.

She demanded the Centre should at least grant a three-year moratorium to the state for repaying interest of Rs 22,000 crore every month against the loan drawn by the previous Left Front government.

Mamata said she had met the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Planning Commission Vice-Chairman Montek Singh Aluwalia several times with her demand for sanctioning a special financial package, but the demand has been “ignored.”

The state’s share of the Central fund on the excise duties and coal had been drastically cut, she alleged, saying she was not “begging anything but demanding something minimum and legitimate.”

Mamata said she would allow 15 days’ time to the Centre for coming up with a positive response. “Otherwise, they will have to face the consequences,” she warned.

She did not elaborate on her warning. Sources close to her said the TMC could withdraw its ministers from the Cabinet.

Union Law Minister Salman Khrushid, who visited the city today, did not comment on the Chief Minister's ultimatum.

UPA sources in Delhi indicated the Centre might not be able to adhere to the deadline set by Mamata. But some steps would have to be taken to meet her demand, they said.

The passage of the Finance Bill is the most crucial item on the budget session’s agenda and the government needs all its allies on board at this critical juncture. In case, a cut motion is moved by any member on the Bill and is carried, then it could result in the government’s defeat.

Although Mamata is unlikely to derail the financial business, the government cannot afford to take any chances as she is proving to be a temperamental and difficult partner.

She had kept the government on tenterhooks in first half of the session when she initially supported the opposition’s amendments to President’s address on the new anti-terror body. The motion of thanks was adopted and Opposition’s amendments defeated, but Trinamool Congress embarrassed the government by staging a walkout in Lok Sabha.

The Congress on Saturday kept up a brave face and sought to play down her ultimatum. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari remarked: “Every chief minister or state has some legitimate expectations and aspirations and wants the best possible for his or her state.”

Stating that the government would have a constructive approach to Mamata’s demands, Tewari said: “If any chief minister has aspirations which are legitimate, I am sure the Centre will leave no stone unturned so that its development imperatives are met.”

Mamata Banerjee has, so far, managed to have her way with the Centre.

The government was forced to put off its policy on FDI in retail, the establishment of a national anti-terror body and the Lokpal Bill following Mamata’s objections.

What didi says

n Mamata says West Bengal inherited a debt burden of over `2,00,000 crore due to loans taken by the previous Left Front governments

n She says the Centre also stopped Central Sales Tax compensation of `1,500 crore

n The CM says the Central funds received so far were for backward area development, including Maoist-hit Junglemahal area





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