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Trinamool, DMK seek rollback of fuel hike
Cong allies join Oppn to oppose FM’s proposal
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, February 27
With two UPA constituents — Trinamool Congress and the DMK —joining the Opposition to demand a rollback on the price hike for fuel, the Congress core committee, headed by party president Sonia Gandhi, is slated to meet on Tuesday to take stock and devise a damage control strategy.

The Congress was pushed on the backfoot after the BJP and the Left parties along with UPA’s supporting parties like the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) staged a joint protest walkout yesterday and announced their intention to oppose the Budget and move cut motions. The grand old party’s problem was further compounded when Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and the DMK also joined the chorus for a rollback.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, who is locked in competitive politicking with the Left parties in the run-up to next year’s West Bengal elections, has already hit the streets. She is particulalry unhappy with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee for increasing freight rates and taking away the tax exemption for the Railways on goods transportation which could cost nearly Rs 6,000 cr. At the same time DMK chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi has written to Prime Minster Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Pranab Mukherjee, seeking a rethink on the price hike.

So far, the finance minister is adamant, declaring publicly that there is no question of a rollback

Congress leaders maintain that this unusual bonding between the Left and Right is transitory and that it will be difficult for the Marxists to have a lasting relationship with the BJP given its antipathy to the saffron party. At the same time, they also admit that the party will have to do some quick thinking as its immediate priority is to secure the passage of key finance and appropriation Bills in Parliament.

Hemmed in by the Opposition as well as its allies and its outside supporters, the Congress has already been feeling the heat although it is only a week since the budget session of Parliament commenced. The government was hard put to defend itself during the debate on price rise when it was confronted with the same line-up of angry speakers who banded together yesterday to stage a protest walkout. If this trend continues, Congress floor managers will have a tough task on hand as they have a long session ahead. The government will now find itself in the firing line next week when the two Houses debate the motion of thanks to the President.

As it happens, the numbers are stacked against the ruling combine in the Rajya Sabha. The government is comfortably placed in the Lok Sabha provided it has the unconditional support of 46 members belonging to the RJD, SP and the BSP. Without them, the UPA’s majority in the Lok Sabha is reduced to two, with 276 members in a House of 545.



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