In every eyeball-to-eyeball contest between the Centre and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the Centre had blinked. So when at last the Centre decided not to oblige, Banerjee walked out.
But it had been a wrench. Banerjee had actually been banking on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — and more so on UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi — to bail her out of a hard decision. Hence the 72-hour deadline and presumably, a bonus of another 48 hours before her ministers resign.
This was what some of the legislators who attended Tuesday’s meeting, but did not wish to be named, told HT.
“Didi had hoped the Prime Minister might reconsider his decision. And she had banked on Sonia Gandhi,” a legislator said.
Banerjee, after all, shares a special relationship with the Gandhi family since 1984, when then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi made her a minister in his cabinet. Over the last three years, every time she had differences with the Centre, Gandhi played peacemaker. Be it seat-sharing in the 2011 Bengal assembly or the earlier rollback of reform plans, it had been the Centre which gave in.
Quitting the UPA government was practically the last option and it took three full hours at the Town Hall to cast off the moorings. But according to the legislators, the decision was unanimous.
The 5 to 8 pm meeting at the Town Hall saw Banerjee seeking the opinion of her party leaders and everyone behaved. It was agreed that after the UPA decisions on LPG, diesel price hike and FDI, they had been left with no option but to quit.
“If we didn’t leave the UPA-II at this juncture, we would be seen as part of the anti-people machinery, which we cannot afford,” said a Trinamool MP. “We have more at stake than the Congress,” pointed out state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee.
As for the party’s ministers at the Centre, some of them apparently came to the meeting with resignation letters in their pockets. “The six central ministers were without a job for 40 months and railways minister Mukul Roy was never consulted at cabinet meetings. We felt humiliated,” said a minister.