New Delhi: A crucial meet of the Congress party’s Core Group on Wednesday ended inconclusively with the government deciding to standby its decision on fuel price hike, cap on LPG subsidy and allowing FDI in the retail sector.
According to reports, the Congress Core Group meet that lasted for almost two hours at the Prime Minister's 7, RCR residence saw the top party leaders deliberating over the political situation arising out of the Trinamool Congress’ (TMC) decision to withdraw support to UPA government.
During the meeting, which was chaired by Congress president, both Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deliberated over the strategy ahead.
Shortly after the meet, Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, “The government is firm on its decision. There will be no rollback. The PM will speak to TMC ministers on Friday.”
Sources also indicate that the UPA government has decided to explain the background behind its decisions to the Trinamool Congress which withdraw its support to the coalition on the issue of diesel price hike and FDI in retail.
The sources recalled that the government sought to reach out to Mamata Banerjee four days ago to explain the background behind the decisions it took.
The Prime Minister tried to speak to Banerjee twice over phone but she did not return the calls. Then Railway Minister Mukul Roy was contacted, the sources said, adding Roy acknowledged that Banerjee had received the message.
However, Roy said today that nobody from the Government has spoken to him after Mamata Banerjee decided on withdrawing support last night.
Sources further claim that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi could now speak to the firebrand TMC leader with an offer, although it could be too little, too late.
Minutes before the core group meeting began, the Prime Minister held confabulation with Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
Trinamool Congress yesterday decided to withdraw its ministers from the Union government and its support.
The second biggest constituent of the UPA with 19 members in Lok Sabha said the party could reconsider its stand if the government rolls back its decisions on FDI, raised the cap on subsidised LPG from six to 12 cylinders besides reducing diesel hike from Rs 5 by Rs 3 or Rs 4.
"We are withdrawing our support... Our ministers will go to Delhi, meet the Prime Minister and tender their resignations at 3 PM on Friday," the TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister had said.
Immediately after the Trinamool's announcement yesterday, Digvijay Singh said on twitter, "FDI decision was taken in national interest fully knowing its political fallout and I hope the government will stand firm as it did on the nuclear deal."
While most analysts describe Mamata as mercurial, her decision of breaking off all ties with the UPA does seem to be a well thought-out one.
By demanding a rollback in hike of diesel prices and cap on LPG subsidies, Mamata wants to position herself as the voice of the poor.
However despite taking this extreme step, the TMC chief has kept a window open for the Congress. She can continue her alliance with the Congress if the UPA government rolls back price hike, withdraws FDI decision.
In such an impending situation, Congress president Sonia may now be forced to play the mediating role between the Manmohan Singh government and Mamata's TMC. Interestingly, the main opposition party BJP is keeping a close watch at the developments taking place in the nation capital and has remained tight-lipped over the issue.
Will UPA-II govt survive?
Although West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has withdrawn support to the UPA government, the Congress-led government could still continue in power, even without her party's support, for some months by taking support of other parties.
Without the Trinamool Congress, the UPA will be reduced to 251 - 21 short of the majority mark of 272 in the 545-member Lok Sabha. However, with the support of outside allies – Samajwadi Party (22), BSP (21) and some others – the government is still comfortably placed with the support of over 300 members.
With 21 and 22 members respectively, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav have the numbers to keep the UPA afloat, but both will put up a high price tag for any possible support.
TMC still a valuable ally: Congress
Despite the shocker from TMC, the Congress still believes that Mamata Banerjee’s party is an important UPA ally.
AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said, “The issues that they have raised, the Congress will talk to the government on them.”
Sources said Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to take up the matter with the Prime Minister, amid indications that the cap on LPG cylinders could be raised from six to nine per year.
The virtual deadline of three days gives the Congress and the government some room to work out a compromise, observers felt. For this, the government may have to climb down on its stand of not rolling back its last week's decisions.
Significantly, reacting to the development, SP made it clear that it would not be influenced by Trinamool's decision and would take an "independent" view.
The SP yesterday said that it would not allow the BJP to come to power.
While Banerjee was holding meeting with her party leaders in the evening, the Prime Minister held confabulations with senior Cabinet colleagues P Chidambaram and NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Pawar, the leader of NCP, is understood to have assured the Prime Minister that his party is strongly with the government.
(With PTI Inputs)
First Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 09:01