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From the centre to the margins

The TMC has little leverage left, but the UPA must tread a fine line between the SP and BSP.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2012 23:07 IST

It has been one of the most rapid movements from centre-stage to periphery in recent times. A few months ago, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was making headlines with her demands on the UPA government of which she was a part. When she withdrew her support on the issue of the petroleum price hike, FDI in retail and corruption after days of keeping the government on tenterhooks, it was expected that she would become something of a hero in her own state. But some months down the line, there is much disillusionment among her own partymen at the manner in which the TMC is being run or, more to the point, not being run. There are allegations of corruption, a word which is anathema to Ms Banerjee, and there has been physical violence between her MLAs and those of the Left in the West Bengal assembly.

The UPA government seems to have swiftly moved to marginalise her and find new best friends as seen in the case of the vote on FDI in multi-brand retail. Her attempts at bringing about a no-confidence motion was a no-brainer and her efforts to bring the Left, her avowed enemy, over to her side seemed both naïve and vindictive. But the moot point is that after a historic victory in West Bengal, she has not been able to deliver on her promises or use the position she had in the UPA coalition to the state’s advantage. In contrast, the SP and BSP have played their cards very well. While opposing FDI in retail, both extended a lifeline to the government. And it is quite clear that they will extract a price for this. In Ms Banerjee’s case, while opposing the government’s economic and other policies, she played her trump card too quickly and now is left with very little leverage. However, her marginalisation still does not give the government too much cause for comfort.

We have already seen that the BSP and SP are pulling in different direction on the quotas in promotions bill. The BSP naturally wants the government to push it through while the SP is bitterly opposed to it. This will take more than a little deft management on the part of the UPA to resolve. There are several vital legislations pending, among them the banking reforms bill and FDI in insurance and pensions bills. These are bound to be contentious and the government will have to negotiate through a minefield of political sentiments to get them through. This means that for quite a while to come, the government will find itself on a bit of a political precipice though it will have one less party to appease with Ms Banerjee having painted herself into a corner. While the move to the sidelines was fairly quick, it is going to take her a lot longer to move back to the pre-eminent position she once had in national politics.