Mamata quits UPA, but keeps door open for compromise
Kolkata: Trinamool Congress, the second biggest constituent of the UPA, on Tuesday decided to withdraw support to the government over the issue of diesel price hike, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and FDI in retail.
“We will not be in UPA-II. Our ministers will go to Delhi on Friday, meet the Prime Minister and submit their resignations at 3 pm,” TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced at a press conference here.
“We are not responsible if the country is forced to go for a mid-term poll,” Banerjee said. "This government can stay for three months or six months, I don't know. They have lost the credibility. And if they cannot maintain friendship with us, then they cannot maintain friendship with anybody," she added.
Trinamool has six ministers in the Manmohan Singh government – one of Cabinet rank and others Ministers of State.
Banerjee announced the decision after a meeting of the Trinamool Congress’ parliamentary party, which went on for over three hours.
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.
The TMC decided to withdraw the support after the Centre refused to roll back the hike in diesel prices, cap on LPG cylinders and FDI in retail.
“The UPA government did not consult us before the price hike,” Banerjee said.
However, she added a caveat saying if the Centre rolls back the decision on FDI in multi-brand retail, raises the cap on supply of subsidised LPG from six to to 12 cylinders and reduces diesel price hike from Rs 5 to Rs 3 or Rs 4, then the party would reconsider the decision to withdraw support.
At one point Banerjee mentioned 24 cylinders but it was not clear whether she was making a demand for that number.
She said the Central government was not a one-party rule. "The government depends on the support of others. But in (West) Bengal, we have a majority of our own and we are not dependant on others," she said.
Banerjee ruled out supporting the Central government from outside saying her decision was "not half-hearted".
Widening the attack on Congress, she brought in issues like coal block allocation scam, black money and fertiliser price rise.
"The FDI decision was taken to suppress the coalgate issue," the West Bengal CM said.
She revealed that she had conveyed her opposition to FDI decisions directly to Congress president Sonia Gandhi but it did not work.
Banerjee also criticised Finance Minister P Chidambaram's statement on Monday ruling out rollback on FDI.
“The UPA government wants to sell out the country. We will oppose it,” Banerjee said.
Accusing the Congress of indulging in "blackmail politics", she said whenever it has trouble with any of its allies, it goes to the other.
"When it has problem with Mayawati, it goes to Mulayam. When it has problems with Mulayam, it goes to Nitish (Kumar of JD-U) and it is like that," Banerjee said, adding “sometimes somebody has to bell the cat”.
The TMC chief accused the UPA-II government of working on anti-people policies, adding the prices of fuel have been increased many times over the past three years
“The UPA has no respect for us. We cannot stay happy if our heads are cut off. We have always been snubbed,” Banerjee said.
Saying the “government doesn’t listen to us”, Banerjee said her party would not tolerate UPA’s attitude.
She even accused the Centre of discriminating against West Bengal.
“The government charges taxes but it doesn’t provide social security to people,” Banerjee said, adding the government is killing poor people.
Referring to the FDI decision, she said there are 50 million people in unorganised retail sector. "Where will these people go? There will be disaster. It has not been sustainable even in the West."
“Why isn’t black money being brought back?” Banerjee asked.
The TMC chief said her party had always wanted to give support for five years but was forced to take the decision.
Banerjee also announced that her party will opposed Pension Bill on the floor of Parliament.
"If we don't take a decision, they will even allow foreign players in pension sector. We can't tolerate. We will not tolerate any anti-people decisions and we will oppose everything," she said.
‘Mamata still an ally’
The Congress, meanwhile, reacted by saying that it still considers Mamata Banerjee as its 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 today 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 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)