Agencies Kolkata, September 18, 2012
An aggressive West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday withdrew her Trinamool Congress’ support to the Congress-led UPA government. Banerjee told a news conference that Trinamool’s six ministers — one cabinet and five ministers of state — would submit their resignations to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
“Our ministers will submit their resignations to the Prime Minister. We are withdrawing our support from UPA-2,” Banerjee said, speaking mainly in Bengali.
The decision was taken at a three-hour meeting of Trinamool leaders following a hike in diesel prices, allowing FDI in multi-brand retail and capping the number of subsidized cooking gas cylinders to consumers.
The Trinamool, with 19 members in the Lok Sabha, was the second largest constituent in the multi-party UPA.
The decision brings the UPA’s effective strength in the 545-seat Lok Sabha from 273 to 254, which is slightly below the half-way mark.
This would make the UPA more dependent on the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, both of which extend outside legislative support to the UPA regime.
At her presser, Banerjee lashed out at the Congress, saying the FDI decision was unveiled to divert attention from the coal blocks allocation controversy involving the government.
She accused the Congress of acting unilaterally, without giving due respect to its allies. “We cannot tolerate this.”
“If FDI is allowed in retail market, where will the retailers go? There will be a disaster,” she said.
The Trinamool chief demanded to know why the government was not making efforts to bring back the huge volumes of black money allegedly stashed by Indians in foreign banks.
“Somebody has to bell the cat,” she said, explaining her decision.
Ahead of the crucial meeting of Trinamool Congress (TMC) parliamentary party, prominent leader Saugata Roy on Tuesday indicated that party could pull out its ministers from the Union council of minister if its rollback demands on FDI in retail, cap on LPG subsidy and diesel price hike were not met with.
Asked to comment on Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement that the government will not roll back the decisions Trinamool Congress said “We know the Prime Minister has the last word.”
Trinamool Congress (TMC), a regional party based in West Bengal state and led by firebrand politician Mamata Banerjee, had been a thorn in the side of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s administration since elections in 2009.
Banerjee has already described the reform package as “anti-people”, saying a hike in diesel prices will spur inflation and that the opening of the retail sector to foreign multi-nationals will hurt millions of small traders.
Last December, Banerjee’s refusal to accept retail reforms forced the government into a humiliating U-turn but the policy was re-launched last week.
“If the (government) does not roll back the hike in diesel price and withdraw decisions in multi-brand retail, we will take decisions, however hard they may be,” she had told crowds in Kolkata at the weekend.
The TMC, which has six ministers in the government and 19 MPs in the 543-seat Parliament, is due to meet in Kolkata town hall on Tuesday and make an announcement later in the day.
Manmohan Singh insists the diesel price rise and economic reforms are needed to reverse a slowdown in economic growth and to boost public finances.
On Friday, his cabinet cleared new rules inviting foreign supermarkets such as Walmart into the retail sector and allowing foreign airlines to take stakes in domestic carriers.
The measures came soon after diesel rates were raised by a steep 12 percent, sparking protests across the country.
Trade unions, backed by the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have called for a nationwide strike on Thursday.