Mamata not to press the quit button yet
Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's lieutenants, including central ministers from her party, will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday -- but not to resign.
Their resignation letters, on the petrol price rise issue, are with Banerjee. On Tuesday they won't even ask for a roll back of petroleum prices or a coordination committee in the ruling United Progressive Alliance for a say in decisions. Instead, they'll tell the PM that repeated rises in petrol prices are 'not a good thing'.
Much of the sound and fury expended by the TC at the latest price rise was spent after being gently told by Delhi that as their ministers were party to almost every panel, except the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and the Cabinet Committee on Security, they could hardly claim they were kept out of the decision loop.
A coordination committee -- a demand voiced by Trinamool MPs -- with the Left parties in the UPA government's first tenure became necessary because the Left parties were not part of the government.
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Image: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee
'Mamata is trying to achieve two things with one single move'
Here, when the UPA ally was an active participant in government, there was no justification for a separate committee for coordination, the TC was firmly told.
And, so, though Banerjee is scheduled to meet Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata on Tuesday, she is likely to again press for a financial package for the state, rather than a coordination committee.
A senior Congress leader, well acquainted with the functioning of the TC chief in West Bengal, said: "Mamata Banerjee is trying to achieve two things with one single move -- pressurise the Centre into giving her the financial package or even some assistance and at the same time placating her local constituency by seeming to oppose the UPA. After all, the Left parties in West Bengal are accusing her of posturing and not opposing the decision to decontrol petrol prices itself. So, Banerjee must at least appear to be an ally with some weight."
Image: Mamata Banerjee with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
'Congress does not feel threatened in any way'
Banerjee had demanded a coordination mechanism be set up to hold monthly or quarterly meetings of the UPA and its allies. She has had several run-ins, such as the open disagreement on the communal violence bill and the fiasco over the Teesta water accord, which could not be signed. "Although the Congress does not feel threatened in any way, it might be high time that we give her some assurances," said another Congress leader.
The outcome of Banerjee's meeting with the finance minister would be significant to ascertain the TC's next step. The TC with its 18 Lok Sabha MPs is the Congress' largest ally. One of its members has cabinet rank in the Union council of ministers; six others are ministers of state.
Snapping ties with the UPA would not help the TC, say political observers. With hardly anyone else to turn to, it appears Banerjee is using pressure tactics to make the UPA give in to demands for financial help to the state.
Image: Mamata with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi