M A I N   N E W S

Cong ready to sail without Mamata
No going back on diesel hike & retail FDI decisions, decides core group
Anita Katyal/TNS

New Delhi, September 19
If Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee had her say yesterday with her decision to pull out from the UPA government, the ruling coalition had its way today when it categorically rejected its estranged ally’s demand for a rollback on diesel price hike, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and FDI in multi-brand retail.

Contrary to the impression given yesterday that the Congress would seek a rapproachment with the Trinamool chief, the UPA was looking at life without Mamata Banerjee today as it began enlisting the support of other allies to ensure the government’s survival.

Relations between the TMC and the ruling combine deteriorated further as the two engaged in a public war of words today. Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi today said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi had separately tried to get in touch with Mamata to explain the Centre’s compulsions for taking these recent decisions but she did not respond. They said the two leaders had left word with Mamata’s colleague Mukul Roy that the PM and Sonia Gandhi wished to speak to her but met with no success. Chidambaram said the government would try to explain its viewpoint to TMC ministers who are reaching tomorrow to submit their resignations.

Mamata promptly rejected these statements and instead accused the UPA leaders of distorting facts and making false charges against her.

Stating that she had sent a message to Sonia Gandhi last Friday about her Opposition to the Cabinet’s decisions and had wanted to speak to her but failed to get a response. Nobody from Delhi had got in touch with her, she charged.

The carefully-worded statements by Chidambaram and Dwivedi followed a two-hour meeting of the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress core group where the PM stood firm on the government’s decisions. The subsequent response indicated the Congress will not take the initiative in contacting Mamata and that the ball is now firmly in her court. Congress-TMC relations have under strain for several months now but reached breaking point after she opposed the Centre’s reforms agenda.

The UPA believes Mamata’s absence will expedite decision-making and allow it to push ahead with its reforms agenda. Admitting that it will become more difficult to pass Bills in Parliament, UPA sources said it will be able to go ahead with the executive decisions which were being blocked by Mamata.

Stating that the country’s economy is far more fragile than its polity, a senior UPA minister said the PM is keen to give a signal to foreign investors that the Indian government is not “waffling” and that it sticks to its stand. Although the UPA government is in minority, the Congress is also feeling emboldened to let go of Mamata as it is confident of shoring up its numbers with the support of Samajwadi Party Mulayam Singh Yadav, BSP supremo Mayawati who is not joining tomorrow’s opposition-led Bharat Bandh. While Mayawati is biding her time till she recovers ground in UP, Yadav is learnt to be eyeing a ministerial berth at the Centre.

War of words

"The Centre's claim that the Prime Minister tried to contact me is wrong. The Centre was never in touch with me. I request Congress leaders not to distort facts."

— Mamata Banerjee, TMC chief

"We have tried to speak to her (Mamata) four days ago. The Prime Minister tried to speak to her. We have left a message. We have not heard back from her."

— P Chidambaram, FM





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