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Mamata may pull out ministers, give outside support

Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress may consider pulling out its ministers from the govt and give outside support to it if the Centre does not heed to its demand for fuel price hike and FDI in multi-brand retail rollback. Differences would be solved: Cong video-icon | PMO highlights benefits due to reforms

delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2012 20:33 IST

With the Centre taking some hard decisions not acceptable to it, Trinamool Congress, a major UPA constituent, may consider pulling out its ministers from the government and give outside support to it.

Party insiders said one serious option that could be considered is withdrawing its cabinet minister for railways and six other ministers of state at the Centre unless the government rolls back some of its decisions at least partially.

They said the way out could be that the Centre could effect a token cut on the Rs. 5 per litre hike in diesel prices and give more subsidised LPG cylinders and not restrict them to six.

However, TMC, which has 19 MPs in Lok Sabha, is said to be strongly opposed to allowing FDI in multi-brand retailing.

TMC sources said that the party was not in a mood to rock the UPA boat by withdrawing support to the government.

In New Delhi, Congress Spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, "Mamata Banerjee is our respected and valued ally. We never discuss our internal matters with the media, nor do we comment on our allies like that."

Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee during a protest rally against diesel and LPG prices hike, in Kolkata. HT/Subhankar Chakraborty

He was asked about indications from TMC that it might pull out its ministers from the central government.

Alvi said, "If there are any differences, we sort them out through discussion. We are confident. We always sort out issues through discussion."

TMC chief, Mamata Banerjee, who had set a 72-hour deadline on Friday for the government to rollback its decision on diesel price hike and cutting supply of subsidised LPG cylinders, and FDI in multi-brand retail, is set to consult party leaders and MPs on Tuesday on the next course of action.

Banerjee had told a rally in Kolkata on Saturday, "We are not in favour of quitting the government. We are always in favour of not breaking the alliance. But we are committed to the people."

Kunal Ghosh, TMC Rajya Sabha MP and a close aide of Banerjee, said all options are open and dismissed as speculation reports that the party has decided to withdraw support.

Party sources said Banerjee was shocked at the way the central government was taking "anti-people" decisions one after the other.

Meanwhile, Rashid Alvi, Congress spokesperson expressed confidence of sorting out the matter with the Trinamool chief.

"It is an internal matter, Mamataji is a respected cadre of the government, we do not want to make any comment. Even if we have some differences we will sort it out," he said.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee speaks at a rally in Kolkata. AP
SP and BSP, the outside supporters of the UPA government, have also strongly opposed these policies.

While Samajwadi Party (SP), which has 22 MPs in Lok Sabha, has said that it was continuing support to the government to keep the communal forces at bay, and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), with a strength of 21 MPs, has said its executive will meet on October 9 or 10 to consider whether to continue its outside support or not.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav's SP and BSP - both parties extend outside support to the UPA - also took a hardline stance.

Yadav declared his government will not allow FDI in multi-brand retail in UP.

"The SP has never been in favour of allowing FDI in retail. We have to think of small traders and farmers."

On support to the UPA, he said, "SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav will take a decision on the issue. We have extended support to check communal forces."

BSP chief Mayawati threatened to withdraw support if the Centre didn't rollback the "anti-people decisions".

"The final decision over continuing support to the UPA government will be taken in the BSP national executive on October 10."

She added that BSP was not in the government, but extending outside support to UPA to check communal forces from grabbing power.

The NDA too scaled up its attack on the UPA government, with BJP patriarch LK Advani telling reporters just after an NDA meet that it was better for the Centre to seek a fresh mandate and not wait till 2014.

Even as the NDA announced a Bharat Bandh, its key CMs hit out at the Centre over reforms.

"It would be prudent and wise for the government to decide not to wait till 2014 for people to give their opinion," Advani said.

"They should resign and call for fresh polls."

The NDA decided to call for a Bharat Bandh on September 20 against diesel price hike, gas cylinder cap, FDI in multi-brand retail and corruption.

The Shiromani Akali Dal, which has in the past supported FDI in retail in principle, was also present. A SAD leader told HT the party would stand with the NDA politically on the issue.

Advani alleged that FDI in multi-brand retail had been announced by the government - in violation of a commitment in Parliament that they would seek consensus on the matter - to divert attention from the coal scam.

He also referred to media reports suggesting the PM had told Sonia Gandhi that he was not responsible for the coal allocations and had agreed to them on Ahmed Patel's insistence.

BJP chief ministers too attacked retail FDI, with Narendra Modi saying in Bhavnagar: "You (Prime Minister) are allowing foreign traders to enter India.....what would be the percentage of businessmen from Italy, the country wants to know."

MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, "Foreign investment in grocery cannot be accepted leaving our people jobless. It will not be implemented in Madhya Pradesh."

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar dubbed the UPA's decision to allow FDI in retail as "suicidal", saying it suggested the government was being self-destructive and was on its way out.

First Published: Sep 16, 2012 09:08 IST