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Mamata vs PM's Bangladesh visit

September 03, 2011 00:32 IST

It seems as if the government is spending more time fighting its allies than the opposition. In particular, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has become a big headache for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, with sources saying that the Trinamool Congress leader has gone into opposition mode and is challenging most of the proposals put forward by the government.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's impending Bangladesh visit is a high priority for the government, as it is keen to send out a strong and positive message of improved India-Bangladesh ties, Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, and a Mamata spokesman in the cabinet now, opposed certain aspects of the water treaty which will be signed during the visit.

The opposition came during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs a few days ago, when the contours of the treaty were being finalised.

Sources said that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who understands Bangladesh better than anyone else in the government, argued with Trivedi for his opposition on the Teesta river aspect, but an unfazed Trivedi was quick to make the point that he was only articulating the views of his.

He added that it was not necessary that he held the same views, but as a Trinamool Congress minister, he was there to articulate the views of his leader.

The PM then intervened and said that National Security Advisor Shiv Shanker Menon, accompanied by the Union Water Resources Secretary D V Singh would immediately visit Kolkata, meet Banerjee, and explain the situation to her.

Menon has made his visit to Kolkata and the water treaty between the two countries is all set to be signed.

Mamata didi, as she is called, has also expressed some strong reservations on the Land Acquisition Bill which would be moved by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh in the cabinet on Monday.

Jairam, who is working on building a consensus on the Bill, met the PM on Friday, and sources say that he is now all set to go to Kolkatta on Saturday for one more round of discussions with Mamata to get her nod on the crucial Bill which the government wants to introduce in the current session, which ends next week.

Jairam had already met her last week, but last minute glitches still remain to be ironed out.

According to the current proposal, if the private sector wishes to acquire land for a project or factory, they can acquire 80 per cent of the land from the private players directly and the government would help in providing the remaining 20 per cent.

But Mamata has said that the corporates must acquire all 100 per cent of land on their own and there should be no involvement of the government in the exercise.

The security establishment of the country is already in a tizzy. With China building roads, ports and other infrastructure in Bangladesh, India is already lagging far behind in positioning itself as a strategic friend of Bangladesh.

The buzz in security circles is that India is giving nothing to Bangladesh except Bhashan (lecture).

Renu Mittal in New Delhi