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Soni meets Mamata, assures to convey concerns to PM

IANS  Kolkata, September 16, 2011
First Published: 21:30 IST(16/9/2011) | Last Updated: 21:36 IST(16/9/2011)

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni on Friday met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and assured her that she would convey her concern over price-rise and the deferred Teesta river accord to the prime minister.

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"This was my first meeting with her after she became chief minister," Soni said after calling on the Trinamool Congress supremo at the state secretariat here. "I wanted to hear what she needs from the centre."

The relations between the Congress, leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the centre, and alliance partner Trinamool Congress have run into choppy waters over the stalled Teesta river accord with Bangladesh and the issue of price-rise.

On Banerjee's concerns over spiralling prices, Soni said: "The chief minister has expressed her concern. I have assured her that as a central minister I will myself reach it to the prime minister tomorrow (Saturday)."

Soni added: "No one, no citizen of India, nobody in the Congress or in the Trinamool are happy with price hike (of petrol). All of us want prices to be controlled, so that the common man, the 'aam admi', is not in trouble."

Soni was confident that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Panab Mukherjee would take "adequate steps" to ensure that the prices of commodities of daily needs of the common man are kept in control.

Regarding Banerjee's strong opposition to the deferred Indo-Bangla Teesta river water sharing accord, the union minister said the prime minister was aware of the Trinamool chief's stand. "But still, here are additional concerns of which I shall inform the prime minister."

When asked about the concerns of other allies over the issue of rise of petroleum prices, Soni said, "There are concerns across the political spectrum of alliance, including the Congress, when prices go up, but as you know petrol was de-linked a year or so ago and left to market forces."

"It's unfortunate that there are two hikes within a gap of a few months. Now it's not actually within the control of the government," she added.

While lauding Banerjee as a senior and respected alliance partner of the UPA, the union minister said an alliance can only work well when all the parties sit together and discuss.

Soni's meeting with Banerjee comes against the backdrop of a series of fractious differences between the Congress and the Trinamool - the second largest UPA partner with 19 MPs.

Matters came to a head this month when a miffed Banerjee withdrew from the official delegation accompanying the prime minister on his Sep 6-7 visit to Bangladesh to protest the proposed Teesta river water accord, giving a greater share of water to Bangladesh.

Her strong stand stalled the treaty, partly taking the shine off Manmohan Singh's visit.

The Trinamool has also opposed the draft Communal Violence Bill and complained that it was kept in the dark about the latest petrol price hike effective from Friday. Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy called up union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to protest.

Trinamool has 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and the Congress shares power with it in West Bengal.

On Monday, a group of Congress leaders from West Bengal met party general secretary Rahul Gandhi and complained that the Trinamool Congress was trying to "finish off" the Congress in the state.


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