Trinamool Congress chief and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped Parliament and a lunch meeting hosted by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Friday — much to the discomfort of the UPA coalition.
Banerjee, who can be unpredictable at times, remained virtually incommunicado throughout the day, setting off media speculation about a “mini-crisis” in the UPA government.
Banerjee had reportedly threatened to walk out of Thursday night’s meeting of the Cabinet to protest certain clauses proposed in the land acquisition and rehabilitation Bills.
While requesting anonymity, leaders of both the Congress and Trinamool discounted rumours of fissures within the coalition. They also denied that Banerjee had threatened to resign on the issue.
Banerjee did show up at Mukherjee’s house late in the evening on Friday, but did not speak to the media.
HRD Minister Kapil Sibal was also present during the meeting at Mukherjee’s house.
The meeting is said to have been called to discuss strategy to deal with the crisis brought on by a Kolkata High Court judgment delivered in April.
The court had declared 122 primary teachers training institutes (PTTIs) in the state illegal. The decision has put a question mark on the careers of 70,000 students who passed out of these institutes.
Trinamool sources said that Banerjee has forwarded a dissenting note to the government, suggesting modifications in the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007.
The government is said to be willing to put the Bills on hold to accommodate her viewpoint, sources in the Congress said.
Her stand is being seen as posturing, ahead of the 2011 assembly polls in West Bengal.
“Even if the Bills were to be placed in the ongoing parliamentary session, there is little possibility of a movement forward in the next few months, as these Bills would need to be sent to the parliamentary standing committee for its opinion,” said a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.