Realising that the UPA is dependent on her party’s support ahead of the Presidential polls and budget session where the Finance Bill needs to be passed, Mamata Banejree delivered her first “ultimatum” to the Centre on Saturday.
The West Bengal CM gave 15 days time to the UPA to decide on a three-year moratorium on interest payments on loans to bail out the debt-stressed state. She stopped short of spelling out her next step if the Centre fails to meet her deadline but warned that the union government’s “indifferent attitude” could result in a “big issue”.
The Congress avoided any further escalation of tension in the alliance. “Every CM or state has some legitimate expectations and aspirations and wants the best possible for his or her state,” party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
“They have been testing our patience for the past year. But enough is enough. I will not tolerate it. I will wait for another 15 days. The issue will take a bigger shape in the future,” said Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief in Kolkata.
While Banerjee has been demanding this moratorium ever since she came to power last year, she decided to raise the pitch when the Congress is trying its best to keep its allies and even outside supporters in good humour. Banerjee’s ultimatum will come to an end just before the Finance Bill is slated to be passed in Lok Sabha on May 7-8. Although the Finance Bill has nothing to do with the moratorium, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee may make some announcement to placate Banerjee.
“The policy of the party brass is very clear. We will not do anything that may force allies to leave. Congress president’s aim is to run the government to its full term,” said a senior Congress leader.
Bengal’s total debt stands at Rs. 2.26 lakh crore and the repayment obligation for 2012-13 has been budgeted at Rs. 25,561 crore, which almost entirely consumes its own tax revenue that stands at Rs. 31,222 crore.
With 19 Lok Sabha MPs, the Trinamool is the second largest constituent of the UPA. However, the Congress and its ally are going through a rough ride at the state-level with both parties indulging in no-holes-barred criticism over a range of issues.