With DMK’s withdrawal bringing the UPA government down on its knees, Congress intensified efforts to bring in two key opposition parties—Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool—by its side.
Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath first called Mamata to discuss the Sri Lanka issue. After a twenty minute talk Banerjee assured him that her party will abide by whatever the government decides on ‘international issues’.
Meanwhile, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh dipped into the rural job (MGNREGA) fund to reach out to the two opposition camp chief ministers: he wrote to Nitish Kumar to announce the clearance of additional Rs 244 crore for Bihar and called Banerjee to promise release of Rs 350 crore for Bengal.
Banerjee, who had refused to accompany the Prime Minister to Dhaka over the Teesta accord, now toed a soft line over a major foreign policy issue.
“The government should not ignore the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka. But our leader Mamata Banerjee is clear that in foreign policy matters, we should not interfere with the government’s stand,” Trinamool’s parliamentary party head Sudip Bandopadhyay told HT.
Ramesh too, tried to mollify Mamata in his own way.
“Are you still angry with me?” Ramesh asked after Banerjee responded to his sms-request for a talk after five days. When Banerjee raised the issue of non-release of MGNREGA payments, Ramesh replied that not only he will release funds but also come and meet Banerjee in Kolkata next week.
Top Congress managers pointed out that even if the two parties don’t offer any direct help in parliament, Trinamool (19 MPs) and JD(U) (20 MPs) can provide tacit help in Lok Sabha through their absence or walk outs.