In a bid to show how the Congress at the centre is ready to help its irked ally Trinamool Congress, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has offered to construct an additional 500 kilometres of rural roads to Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal.
Ramesh's overture came soon after an angry Banerjee threatened to pull out of the second UPA government after the latest petrol price hike. The latest sop is for the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY), to be taken up in collaboration with Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Addressing the Bengal chief minister as "my dear Mamata didi," Ramesh said, "Originally we had said that West Bengal could send proposals up to 500 kms. I have done a detailed review and I am now pleased to inform you that Bengal could send proposals up to 1,000 kms."
The new offer would be in addition to the 1,261 kms that was earlier sanctioned.
Ramesh's letter assumes political significance as it was sent on Saturday, a day after Banerjee threatened to pull out her party's ministers from the UPA government. In the party circle, Ramesh has fast emerged as the key interlocutor between the Congress and Trinamool.
Interestingly, the first telephone call by Banerjee to protest against oil price hike was made to Ramesh in the last week. During the conversation, Ramesh also told Banerjee that he is ready to accompany her to the Naxal-affected Jangalmahal area whenever she wants.
FM forced to scale down meet
Meanwhile, Banerjee's "unavailability" has forced Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to scale down his annual review meeting with bank chiefs and regional CMs for eastern India in Kolkata on Tuesday.
During the past two months, finance ministry failed to get time from Banerjee for the review exercise that aims to see how bank credits have trickled down to the target groups in eastern and north-eastern India.
The cold response of the Bengal CM is seen in the Congress circle as another indication of her anger against the finance ministry for not bailing out her debt-ridden state.
As per the norms, the host chief minister needs to be present in the meeting where other chief ministers are invited along with the heads of banks operating in the region and top finance ministry officials.
An exasperated finance ministry may shift the venue to Congress-ruled Assam.